Signs and Symptoms of Esophageal Varices

June 3, 2019
Esophageal varices manifest with symptoms that some people overlook until they worsen. In this article, discover the treatment options for this condition.

We all know what varicose veins are: dilated veins that cause venous insufficiency. However, there are also esophageal varices that are located at the end of the esophagus and hinder blood flow.

It’s important to talk to your doctor in case of any sign or symptom of esophageal varices that can sometimes be confused with other less serious problems. Early treatment will help ensure that the condition doesn’t worsen.

How to Know if You Have Esophageal Varices

A dizzy woman due to esophageal varices.

The biggest risk associated with esophageal varices is possible rupture and bleeding.

To find out whether you have esophageal varices or not, it’s important to take into account some factors that affect its manifestation and possible signs to consider.

However, many times esophageal varices are asymptomatic, and the symptoms that do manifest can be confused with other less serious conditions.

Let’s see what they are:

  • Black stools: Although you may not think too much of this color, if it’s caused by this condition, it’s due to the presence of blood. This occurs when the veins rupture.
  • Vomiting blood: At first, you may feel dizziness or lightheadedness, until you eventually vomit blood. If this happens to you, you need to go see your doctor immediately.
  • Loss of consciousness: This usually happens due to the hemorrhage caused by esophageal varices, which leads to dizziness and fainting in severe cases

If these symptoms persist, you must go see a doctor as soon as possible. Losing consciousness, feeling dizzy, or vomiting blood can ring the alarm that you’re suffering from this risky condition.

This article may interest you: Symptoms of Inflammation of the Esophagus

Diagnosis: Endoscopy

A man getting an endoscopy.

To make a reliable diagnosis, your doctor will perform an endoscopy. This procedure also allows the doctor to take biopsies.

To do this, the doctor introduces a camera into the esophagus to see if there are abnormal veins. If they find any, this procedure also allows them to assess their severity. (That is, if they’re thick, if there are many of them, if there’s severe bleeding in the area, etc.)

Your doctor will opt for one treatment or another depending on the type of veins found. For example, if your doctor doesn’t find many, they’re small, and there’s no bleeding in the area, they may simply recommend a follow up to see how they evolve.

Descubre: What the Shape and Color of Your Stool Say About Your Health

Treatment Options

Endoscopies allow doctors to make an accurate diagnosis and choose an appropriate treatment.

As we mentioned above, treatment will depend on the type of veins discovered through an endoscopy. Here are some of the treatment options that are available:

  • Medication: If there’s no bleeding although the veins are large, drugs are administered to reduce their pressure.
  • Endoscopic ligation: Doctors recommend this option when the patient can’t tolerate the drugs mentioned above. This procedure consists of strangling the veins with elastic bands to favor their disappearance.
  • Endoscopic sclerotherapy: Doctors recommend it when there’s bleeding. It consists of injecting a substance into the veins.

All these treatments have possible complications. For example, drugs can cause unpleasant side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, or dizziness.

For this reason, your doctor will perform a thorough evaluation to discover what treatment will work best for the patient who’s suffering from esophageal varices.

People who suffer from cirrhosis (liver disease) or who’ve had thrombosis should be more careful with the symptoms or signs that may alert the presence of esophageal varices. Although esophageal varices may appear for other reasons, these are the most susceptible risk groups.

Finally, if you’re suffering from dark stools or dizziness or if you’re vomiting blood, you should go see a doctor as soon as possible. Early treatment will reduce your pain and discomfort and keep the situation from worsening.

If large esophageal varices rupture, it can lead to fairly severe bleeding that can endanger your life. Thus, you shouldn’t underestimate the signs that may be warning you of the presence of these abnormal veins.

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