What are Esophageal Varices?- Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Esophageal Varices

, essentially have to do with the abnormal dilation of veins in the lower esophagus. It is caused primarily because of excessive pressure building up in the portal vein leading to the liver. The disease could turn acute and critical with the distended (swollen) blood vessels rupturing and bursting open.

Esophageal Varices

Causes of Esophageal Varices

  • Portal hypertension (High pressure in the portal vein) causing the discussed condition could be brought about by cirrhosis of liver. In cirrhosis of liver, scarred and damaged liver tissue brings down the capacity of the liver. The resulting reduced blood flow through it causes the extra blood to flood other veins including that of the lower esophagus. Hence, the abnormal swelling and increased pressure.
  • A Splenic Vein Thrombosis (blood clot in the vein of the spleen) could also cause swelling veins in the lower esophagus and upper stomach. In this particular condition, the increased pressure in the portal vein is not found.
  • The reason which mostly lead to these varices in the veins of the esophagus has to do with degenerative changes in the veins caused by increasing age.
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    Symptoms of Swollen Veins in the Lower Esophagus

    Unless the swollen vein burst open, there are no evident symptoms of this disease. Hence, patients with liver conditions like cirrhosis are required to go for screening to detect the presence of the condition.Other symptoms would be as follows:

    • Vomiting
    • Black Tarry Stools
    • Occult Blood in stools
    • Visible Blood in stools
    • A paleness in appearance
    • General weakness and feeling faint is common
    • Anemia
    • Dark streaks in stools


    of the condition is mostly through the use of invasive nasogastric tubes, primarily known as Endoscopy.

    Treatment of Esophageal Varices

    • Bleeding veins are generally treated by a procedure in which the physician inserts an endoscope and ties rubber bands around the swollen and bleeding spots to stop the bleeding.
    • In emergency situations, the first priority is to stop the blood loss. Certain coagulating or blood clotting medications or blood vessel restricting agents are directly injected into the vein.
    • To stop bleeding immediately, another procedure known as the balloon tamponade is also used. In this treatment, a nasogastric tube is inserted into the stomach and it is filled with air. This creates pressure on the bleeding vein and stops the bleeding.
    • In an extreme emergency, the patient is put on a ventilator to prevent blood from getting into the patients lungs and airways.
    • The bleeding vein can get critical and fatal, if not stopped immediately.
    • Medications like antibiotics, beta blockers can be used to prevent future bleeding from the veins.
    • In cases where a liver cirrhosis is inducing the bleeding, a surgery where new connections in the veins of the liver are made can improve the situation. Fixing the liver enable it to handle the volume of blood by itself without over flooding the nearby veins like that of the esophagus.

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