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 lead to ulceration and/or narrowing of the esophagus.
Strictures, or narrowing, can occur in the esophagus, stomach or small intestine. If you have a stricture, it may be difficult for food or liquid to pass through this narrowed area. As a result, you may experience difficultly swallowing, regurgitation, immediate vomiting of food or weight loss.
Ulcers are another upper digestive tract problem. An ulcer occurs when part of lining of the digestive tract becomes damaged. Because the natural fluids inside the stomach are so acidic, the stomach and intestines have developed several defense systems to protect themselves against acid damage. The esophagus has these defenses also. But, when the normal protective barrier and defenses weaken or are overpowered by certain conditions, ulcers can develop. Ulcers most commonly occur in the stomach, or in the duodenum, which the first part of the intestine. Ulcers may be caused by several different things including too much stomach acid, bacteria, or overuse of anti-inflammatory medicine like Motrin or Advil.
Abnormal growths are another digestive tract problem that can occur anywhere along the digestive pathway. These growths may be different shapes and sizes and sometimes, can be cancerous. However, having an abnormal growth does not necessarily mean that you have cancer.
These examples represent a few of the common problems that your doctor may be looking for, and may find, during your upper-endoscopy procedure. There are also other problems that he or she may find and discuss with you.