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What are the Symptoms of Herpes Esophagitis?

By C. K. Lanz
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The symptoms of the viral infection herpes esophagitis can include chills, painful swallowing, difficulty swallowing, and ulcers in the esophagus and mouth. Weight loss, esophageal inflammation, fever and joint pain may be symptoms as well. Herpes esophagitis is caused by the herpes simplex virus and usually does not require medical treatment in patients with normal immune systems.

People with weak or suppressed immune systems are more likely to contract a severe case of esophagitis that can be frustrating to treat. People who are diagnosed with diabetes, leukemia, lymphoma, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) tend to be more likely to suffer an outbreak. Likewise, those who are under chemotherapy treatments or who have recently had an organ transplant may be more susceptible to herpes esophagitis as well.

Ulcers in the esophagus are the primary symptom of herpes esophagitis. The esophagus can become inflamed as a result of the presence of sores. These small sores and subsequent inflammation make it difficult and painful for patients to swallow. In severe cases, patients can experience weight loss because it becomes too painful to eat normal meals.

Mouth and lip ulcers, also known as canker sores, cold sores or fever blisters, may also be present in patients with esophagitis. These ulcers are painful open sores that can make eating and drinking difficult. The ulcers typically self resolve in seven to 10 days in patients with normal immune systems.

Fever is another common symptom of herpes esophagitis. The body responds to the viral infection by raising its core temperature above the normal range. By raising its core temperature above normal, the body is attempting to neutralize the infection.

As a patient’s body temperature increases, he or she may actually feel cold and experience chills. This feeling usually subsides once the body reaches its new core temperature. Many people with herpes esophagitis will therefore suffer from both fever and chills.

Most people will not require medical treatment for esophagitis. Individuals with normal immune systems typically recover in three to five days. Patients with weak or suppressed immune systems may require a course of antiviral medication to control the infection. Severe cases can lead to perforations in the esophagus, which require more advanced medical treatment.

The herpes simplex virus generally causes ulcers or sores in the genital area, inside the mouth or on the lips. This common virus can be transmitted via infected saliva and remains dormant in the body after the initial infection has resolved. As a result, many people infected with herpes simplex will suffer recurrences of their symptoms when the virus reactivates. Outbreaks can be triggered by stress, acute illness, certain medications, fever, excess sunlight and the onset of menstruation in women.

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