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Definition Return to top
Herpes esophagitis is a viral infection that involves inflammation and ulcers in the esophagus, the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach.
Causes Return to top
The herpes simplex virus causes herpes esophagitis.
Infection of the esophagus by the herpes simplex virus is rare in people with normal immune systems and usually runs its course without treatment. However, severe and persistent esophagitis can occur in people with a suppressed or weakened immune system.
Symptoms Return to top
Healthy people recover on their own in 3 - 5 days, but those with a weakened immune system take longer to get better.
Exams and Tests Return to top
Treatment Return to top
The objective of treatment is to control the infection with antiviral medications. Some people also get pain medicine.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Esophagitis can usually be treated effectively. The outcome depends upon the immune system problem that makes the person more likely to develop the infection.
Possible Complications Return to top
Complications include recurrent infections.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if you have any condition that can cause reduced immune response and you develop symptoms of herpes esophagitis.
Prevention Return to top
The herpes simplex virus is contagious by direct contact, so avoid contact with known herpes lesions.Update Date: 11/1/2007 Updated by: Kenneth M. Wener, M.D., Department of Infectious Diseases, Lahey Clinic, Burlington, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.