Diverticulitis | Diverticular Disease Nursing | Diverticulosis Symptoms, Diet, Treatment NCLEX



Q: What is an esophageal diverticulum, and is it dangerous?

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A: An esophageal diverticulum is a relatively rare condition of the esophagus, the tube that carries food and liquid from the throat to the stomach. When tissue on the esophageal lining is stretched, it can form a sac or pouch that bulges through the muscular wall of the esophagus. Usually diagnosed in middle-aged and elderly patients, diverticula are often asymptomatic and don’t require any treatment, but they can lead to serious complications.

The esophagus generates internal pressure to move food downwards, a process known as esophageal motility. These contractions sometimes push through or herniate a weak spot in the esophageal lining. Diverticula can trap food and saliva in the esophagus. Symptoms may include difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), chronic coughing, regurgitation, or bad breath (halitosis).

There are three types of esophageal diverticula, based on where they form: Zenker’s diverticula, the most common type, are in the upper esophagus, midthoracic diverticula in the mid-chest, and epiphrenic diverticula just above the diaphragm.

The diverticulum grows over time, so symptoms can gradually develop or worsen. “If it becomes very big, the person may not be able to swallow at all, and in rare cases a tear can form in the esophagus,” says Michael S. Smith, MD, medical director of the Temple Esophageal Program at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia. “This would require immediate medical intervention, or the patient could die from a severe infection.”

As Dr. Smith points out, regurgitation associated with esophageal diverticula can allow food or liquid to pass into the lungs and cause aspiration pneumonia. The condition may also raise the risk for cancer of the esophagus because “chronic irritation of the esophagus lining is thought to lead to formation of cancer cells,” Smith says.

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Eating a bland diet, chewing carefully, sitting up when swallowing, drinking plenty of water with meals, and sleeping on an incline to keep the head elevated can help manage the condition and its symptoms. For more severe cases, there are surgical options depending on the size and location of the diverticula.

If you’re experiencing any symptoms, your doctor may want to perform an endoscopy or a barium swallow X-ray to examine your esophagus for signs of diverticula.

Do you have a health-related question for Dr. Gupta? You can submit it here. For more health news and advice, visit Health Matters With Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Last Updated:10/28/2014
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Date: 19.12.2018, 10:35 / Views: 44562