While it may sound like a fancy piece of jewelry, a Schatzki ring is actually a medical condition that causes dysphagia or difficulty swallowing. Often, minor swallowing problems occur when you don't chew your food well enough or eat too fast. But if you persistently struggle swallowing or feel like food is stuck in your throat, you might have a Schatzki ring. Talking to your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment is the first step toward healing.
What Is a Schatzki Ring?
A Schatzki ring is one of the many medical situations that can interfere with swallowing. Also referred to as a lower esophageal ring, a Schatzki ring is a 2-to-4-millimeter band of abnormal mucosal tissue that narrows the esophagus at the point where it meets the stomach. Schatzki rings may cause dysphagia and make dry or dense foods, like bread and meat, especially difficult to swallow.
Schatzki rings could be pill-induced, a result of acid reflux scarring, or congenital, meaning present from birth. However, symptoms don't usually appear until after age 25.
If you have persistent difficulty swallowing, your doctor or dentist may refer you to an ear, nose, and throat specialist or a gastroenterologist. They will likely do a physical examination and conduct a series of tests to evaluate your condition. There are various tests your doctor might perform to diagnose a Schatzki ring. Some of these include:
- A Barium Swallow study involves your doctor taking X-rays as you drink a barium solution or swallow barium-coated food or a pill. This allows the doctor to observe the muscular activity and look for blockages in your throat.
- An endoscopy procedure provides a visual examination of the entire esophagus. The doctor passes a thin, flexible instrument down the throat and into the esophagus. This helps diagnose tumors and inflammation and determine if there is a narrowing, such as a Schatzki ring.
- CT or MRI scans can also give detailed cross-sectional images of bones, organs, and soft tissues.
Your doctor may treat abnormal tissues like Schatzki rings through esophageal dilation. Your doctor inserts an endoscope into your esophagus during this procedure and inflates an attached balloon to stretch the esophageal opening wider. If your doctor feels that your Schatzki ring was caused by acid reflux, medication may be prescribed to reduce stomach acids and advise that you avoid alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine, which can irritate the esophagus.
For most people, trouble swallowing is treated with simple measures like taking smaller bites of food and chewing slower. But if you are diagnosed with a Schatzki ring, keep in mind that it is treatable with your doctor's help. With a little extra care, you should be swallowing easily again in no time.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.