Herpes Esophagitis (HSV-1)
Herpes esophagitis is a viral infection of the esophagus, the tube that carries food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach. The herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) causes herpes esophagitis. This is the same virus that causes cold sores and eye infections such as conjunctivitis. The inflammation and open sores of herpes esophagitis can cause pain and damage the throat tissues.
Herpes esophagitis is not very common in healthy people. Antibodies help the body fight off viruses and other invaders so a person doesn’t get sick. This herpes simplex type 1 virus is spread through infected saliva. It can develop into a throat infection through close contact with someone who has mouth ulcers, cold sores, or eye infections. Avoiding contact with those who have an active infection, and washing hands with warm water and soap, can avoid spreading the virus.
The primary symptoms include:
- Difficulty or pain in swallowing
- Open sores in the mouth
- Joint pain
- Generally not feeling well (malaise).
The gastroenterologist will take a medical history and look into the esophagus using an upper GI endoscopy call an esophagogastroduodenoscopy to determine the cause of the symptoms. Throat cultures, mouth swabs, blood tests, and urine tests can also be done to confirm herpes esophagitis.
Medication can be used to treat esophagitis caused by the herpes virus. One of three anti-viral drugs can be prescribed:
- Acyclovir (Zovirax)
- Famciclovir (Famvir)
- Valacyclovir (Valtrex)
Over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription-strength pain relievers may also be used to ease the pain of herpes esophagitis. The doctor may prescribe medication on a long-term basis to prevent the infection from recurring.