Which physical findings are characteristic of esophagitis?

Updated: May 28, 2020
  • Author: Deepika Devuni, MD; Chief Editor: BS Anand, MD  more...
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The physical examination usually is not helpful in confirming the diagnosis of uncomplicated esophagitis. However, the examination may reveal other potential sources of chest or abdominal pain.

Perform a rectal examination (eg, stool guaiac) to identify the presence of occult bleeding.

Examine the oral cavity (for thrush or ulcers). Oropharyngeal candidiasis is commonly associated with esophageal candidiasis; therefore, the presence of oral thrush may be helpful in suggesting the diagnosis of Candida esophagitis in the appropriate clinical setting. Nevertheless, only 50%-75% of patients with Candida esophagitis have oropharyngeal disease, and some patients with oropharyngeal candidiasis and dysphagia are found to have other types of esophagitis; therefore, the correct diagnosis cannot always be suggested on the basis of clinical presentation.

Look for signs of immunosuppression and skin signs of systemic disease (eg, telangiectasias and sclerodactyly in scleroderma).

Although the presence of herpes labialis (cold sores) or herpetic lesions of the oropharynx should suggest the presence of herpetic esophagitis in the appropriate clinical setting, most patients have no concurrent oropharyngeal herpetic lesions. Moreover, some patients with odynophagia and oral herpes eventually are found to have Candida esophagitis. Therefore, the presence of other herpetic lesions is not accurately predictive of herpes esophagitis in patients with odynophagia. There are rare reports of concomitant herpetic and candidal esophagitis. [29]

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