Esophageal Disease

UH Offers Advanced Diagnostics and Treatments for Esophageal Scleroderma

Scleroderma is chronic disorder of the immune system that causes your body to make too much collagen, a protein found in your skin. When too much collagen is produced, it can lead to thickening, hardening and tightening of the skin, connective tissues and internal organs. As the disease progresses, it can cause inflammation, scarring and tissue damage.


Your health is important. Don’t delay care.

To schedule an in-person or virtual consultation with a UH digestive health specialist, call 1-866-UH4-CARE.

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Scleroderma is relatively rare but when it does occur, it very often affects the gastrointestinal tract, most commonly the esophagus or food pipe. When this occurs it is called esophageal scleroderma, a condition in which the smooth muscles of the esophagus are damaged and replaced with scar tissue. This causes the esophagus to become narrower and can lead to acid reflux symptoms and swallowing problems.


What are the symptoms of Esophageal Scleroderma?

As the muscles in the esophagus become weaker and narrower due to the buildup of scar tissue, patients with esophageal scleroderma may experience the following symptoms:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  • Choking on food or a sensation of food being stuck in your throat
  • Bitter taste in the mouth due to undigested food backing up in the esophagus
  • Chest pain
  • Hoarseness

How is esophageal scleroderma diagnosed?

If a patient comes to us with symptoms of GI-related symptoms like heartburn or difficulty swallowing, a variety of tests may be performed to rule out or confirm a diagnosis of esophageal scleroderma. These may include:

Additional, more advanced tests may be ordered if any of the above procedures identify a problem or concern that needs further investigation.

Treatment for Esophageal Scleroderma

Esophageal scleroderma can lead to a variety of serious complications and health risks so it is important to seek help from an experienced digestive health expert if it is diagnosed or suspected.

Scleroderma-related damage can contribute to or cause:

  • Barrett’s Esophagus
  • Aspiration pneumonia due to stomach contents backing up and being inhaled into the lungs
  • Esophageal strictures – narrowing of the esophagus

Treatments may include:

  • Managing symptoms of heartburn and swallowing difficulties through lifestyle and dietary changes
  • Medications to reduce and/or neutralize stomach acid production
  • Medications to stimulate the GI tract and keep the digestive process moving
  • Esophageal dilation. This is an endoscopic procedure done under sedation. It is most often used when the esophagus is severely narrowed due to inflammation and/or scarring. The doctor uses a dilating balloon or plastic dilators to stretch and widen the narrowed section of your esophagus so that swallowing is easier.

Your health is important. Don’t delay care.

To schedule an in-person or virtual consultation with a UH digestive health specialist, call 1-866-UH4-CARE.