Esophageal varices are the abnormal enlargement of veins at the bottom part of the esophagus (i.e., the part close to the stomach). The esophagus is a narrow, muscular, and elongated tube that joins the pharynx and the stomach. The blood vessels or veins are located just below the lining of the esophagus. The swollen veins can burst and cause detrimental bleeding, sometimes the condition can become fatal.
It is important to understand clearly why this condition develops and the ways to prevent them from rupture. Some of the preventive measures are as follows.
Maintaining Healthy Diets
Maintaining a good diet is essential for prevention of cirrhosis of the liver. Diets that include plant-based foods such as a variety of vegetables and fruits are the best option. Also, one should lower the intake of fat and other foods that are responsible for the build-up of cholesterol.
Patients are suggested to have a soft diet—naturally soft foods that includes ripe banana, egg, and cooked food—in order to prevent veins from rupturing. Soft foods are easy to swallow or chew and also help in a fast digestion process.
Patients should avoid food such as taco shells, hard vegetables like carrots, raw fruits, etc., which might cause tearing of the veins. Food that helps in digestion, such as insoluble fibers, should be consumed in order to reduce the risk of constipation. Rupturing of the esophageal varices may happen due to straining and constipation.
It is recommended to have five small meals a day. A highly nutrient breakfast would include oatmeal along with prune juice. Bananas along with low fat food like yogurt can be taken as the mid-morning meal.
Lunch could be chicken, beans, etc., and in the mid-afternoon, a glass of milk along with salt crackers. For dinner, the menu could be fish along with potato.
This is an example of a properly planned diet for a patient, which is important for a patient with esophageal varices.
Careful Use of Chemicals
There are various chemicals used in households in the form of insect sprays or other pesticides for cleaning purposes. When these toxic substances enter into the human body, they are removed by the liver.
It is advised to reduce using such substances in order to minimize the strain put on the liver and always take the proper precautions, by following the appropriate safety measures.
Preventing Liver Cirrhosis
Individuals who have problems of cirrhosis are more prone to esophageal varices. Cirrhosis is the condition where healthy liver tissues are damaged and replaced by scar tissues.
Cirrhosis results in slowdown of the blood flow in the portal vein that carries blood from the liver to the stomach and intestine. Irregular blood flow in the portal vein leads to the increase in blood pressure within the portal venous system.
This condition is called as portal hypertension. The main symptom of portal hypertension is gastrointestinal bleeding, that is, the presence of blood along with stools, excessive vomiting, etc.
To avoid such conditions, one should diagnose the disease as soon as possible and take up the best treatment option.
The treatment options for such conditions are categorized as first level treatment—sclerotherapy, which is injection of a solution (mostly salt solution) to stop the blood flow—and the second level treatment—taking proper medication. This process will prevent further development of esophageal varices.
People who consume alcohol regularly are at higher risk to develop cirrhosis, which may further result in esophageal varices.
The best option to prevent this disease is by treating the alcohol addiction. Maintaining a healthy weight is of importance to protect the liver, as excessive fat present in the body results in obesity, which also leads to liver cirrhosis.
Lower the Risk of Hepatitis
Hepatitis B or C patients have a higher chance to get affected by cirrhosis. Use of intravenous drugs and sharing needles are the main causes of hepatitis.
Symptoms of hepatitis are fever, appetite loss, pain in abdomen, vomiting, etc. If the individual is found with such symptoms, one should take proper medications in order to prevent further damage to the liver.
Other Preventative Measures
Some conditions such as a blood clot in the vein system, heart failure, parasitic disease, and inflammatory disease may cause cirrhosis and further lead to esophageal varices.
Other causes of esophageal varices may include severe coughing, family background of liver diseases, etc. Therefore, it is important that individuals should practice good hygiene and be more health conscious.
In addition to the above factors, it is necessary to educate people about esophageal varices to inform patients more about the causes, impact, and preventive measures of this disease. There are many organizations that provide detailed information about this disease and other related diseases.
Reviewed by Chloe Barnett, BSc