Esophageal varices are the ballooning of veins in the esophagus.
The esophagus is the muscular feeding tube that runs from the mouth to the stomach. Liver and esophageal blood vessel systems are connected. When cirrhosis develops in the liver, pressure rises within the blood vessels. This causes ballooning of the blood vessels (varices) to develop in the esophagus. These varices may rupture and bleed.
Treatment of bleeding esophageal varices involves stopping the bleeding and replacing lost blood. Blood transfusions are often required. Most patients with bleeding esophageal varices need a procedure called endoscopy. This involves placing a flexible tube (endoscope) through the mouth into the esophagus. The doctor performing the procedure can see through the endoscope and determine the site of bleeding. Special instruments placed through the endoscope can often stop the bleeding. Other procedures can be performed in the radiology department or in the operating room to help stop the bleeding or to prevent further bleeding from occurring.
Because bleeding from esophageal varices can be life threatening, individuals with bleeding varices should seek medical attention immediately. Many people die from bleeding esophageal varices.
Related LinksNational Library of Medicine
The National Library of Medicine presents information and pictures about esophageal varices.