Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Esophageal Diverticula

Diverticula can form because of increased pressure inside the esophagus while eating or from increased pressure on the outside when there is inflammation or infection in the chest. Most frequently they are related to a motility disorder, such as achalasia or esophageal scleroderma, which prevent the muscles of the esophagus from moving food properly into the stomach.

Other conditions that can lead to the development of an esophageal diverticulum include:

  • A weakness in the esophageal wall
  • A disorder of the sphincter (muscular valve) at the upper end (throat) or lower end (stomach) of the esophagus
  • Esophagitis (inflamed esophageal lining)

Diagnosing esophageal diverticula

Diagnosis of an esophageal diverticulum will begin with a medical history and physical exam. Tests may include:

  • Fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES): An endoscope (a thin, lighted tube with a camera attached to it) is passed through your mouth and esophagus. Your physician can look at pictures of your digestive tract and take a biopsy (tissue sample) for examination under a microscope.
  • Esophagram/barium swallow: Special X-rays are taken of your esophagus after you drink barium, a contrast material that coats your esophagus and shows up well on X-rays.