The esophagus or oesophagus is a muscular tube commonly known as the food pipe or gullet that connects the throat (pharynx) with the stomach. The oesophagus is nearly 18 to 25cm long that travels behind the trachea and heart which is lined by moist pink tissue termed mucosa.
The oesophagus passes through the diaphragm before enters into the stomach. When you swallow the food you consume, the oesophagal walls contract together which helps to move food down the oesophagus to reach the stomach. The oesophagus is one of the parts of your digestive system.
The upper part of the oesophagus contains a bundle of muscles called an upper oesophagal sphincter(UES). The muscles of UES control your breathing, eating, burping or belching, and at times of vomiting. They prevent food and other secretions from going into the windpipe. Most of the oesophagus lies above the diaphragm in your chest.
The lower oesophagal sphincter (LES) is located at the end of the esophagus, slightly above the stomach. The food we swallow enters into the stomach when the sphincters relaxed. LES also prevents the acid and stomach contents from travelling back to the oesophagus from the stomach. The LES muscles are not under voluntary control.
Structurally, the oesophagal wall is made up of four main layers:
Mucosa – The mucosa is the inner layer that lines the oesophagus. It is made up of epithelium(squamous cells), lamina propria(connective tissue), muscularis mucosa.
Submucosa – It is a layer of connective tissue around the mucosa layer. It comprises of mucous glands, nerves, blood vessels and lymphatic tissue.
Muscularis Propria – It lies outside the submucosa layer. It has two rings the inner ring with circular fibres muscle and the outer ring with long fibres muscle that encircles the oesophagus wall.
Adventitia – The adventitia is a connective tissue that covers the outer surface of the oesophagus in the neck and chest.
You may feel the presence of your oesophagus when you swallow something too large, too hot, or too cold. When something wrong happened to the oesophagus, you may experience pain or trouble while swallowing. There are a lot of conditions affecting oesophagus which include:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Barrett’s oesophagus
- Oesophagal ulcer
- Oesophagal stricture
- Achalasia Cardia
- Oesophagal cancer
- Mallory-Weiss tear
- Oesophagal varices
- Oesophagal ring
- Plummer-Vinson syndrome
If you suffer from any of the disorders mentioned above, you need to get treatment immediately. Delay in treatment can lead to life-threatening conditions.