Now that you have seen the normal anatomy, let's look at some of the common problems that can occur in the upper digestive tract.
Many times a day, some of the acidic contents of the stomach go up into the esophagus. In most people, this never produces any problems because the esophagus has a defense system against the acid. However, when this defense system fails, the acid can damage the esophagus. This is called Gastroesophageal reflux disease, which is a condition that produces heartburn, chest pain, asthma or an acidic taste in the mouth. If this damage continues for many years, it can eventually lead to bleeding, narrowing or a tear in your esophagus. Narrowing of the esophagus may cause difficulty in swallowing.
Ulcers are another upper digestive tract problem. An ulcer occurs when the stomach or duodenum becomes damaged. Because the inside of the stomach is so acidic, it has developed several defense systems to protect it from acid damage, just like the esophagus. But, when the normal protective barrier and defenses weaken or are overpowered by certain conditions, ulcers can develop.
This imbalance can occur for many reasons including having too much acid produced in the stomach, having a bacterial infection or overusing anti-inflammatory medicine like Motrin or Advil, to name a few. Several problems can occur because of ulcers. These include bleeding and perforations, which is when a hole is created in the stomach or duodenum.
Abnormal growths are another digestive tract problem that can occur anywhere along the digestive pathway. hese growths can be many different shapes and sizes and sometimes they can be cancerous. Cancer can occur throughout the digestive tract, including the areas of the esophagus, stomach and small intestine. However, having an abnormal growth does not necessarily mean that you have cancer.
These examples represent some of the more common problems that can develop in the upper digestive tract. However, there are many other problems that can occur in this area. Your doctor will be able to describe to you what might be causing your symptoms and the abnormal findings associated with them.