Esophageal varices are abnormal, enlarged veins in the lower part of the esophagus — the tube that connects the throat and stomach. Esophageal varices occur most often in people with serious liver diseases. It develops when normal blood flow to the liver is obstructed by scar tissue in the liver or a clot. Seeking a way around the blockages, blood flows into smaller blood vessels that are not designed to carry large volumes of blood. The vessels may leak blood or even rupture, causing life-threatening bleeding. Esophageal varices sometimes form when blood flow to your liver is obstructed, most often by scar tissue in the liver caused by liver disease. Causes of esophageal varices include: Severe liver scarring (cirrhosis), Blood clot (thrombosis), A parasitic infection, Budd-Chiari syndrome.
Esophageal varices usually don't cause signs and symptoms unless they bleed. Signs and symptoms of bleeding esophageal varices include: Vomiting blood, black, tarry or bloody stools, shock (in severe case) etc.
The primary aim in treating esophageal varices is to prevent bleeding. Bleeding esophageal varices are life-threatening. If bleeding occurs, treatments are available to try to stop the bleeding. Treatments to lower blood pressure in the portal vein may reduce the risk of bleeding esophageal varices. Treatments may include: Medications to reduce pressure in the portal vein and using elastic bands to tie off bleeding veins.
The risk of bleeding from esophageal varices is 30% in the first year after identification. Bleeding from esophageal varices accounts for approximately 10% of episodes of upper gastrointestinal bleeding. Liver disease demonstrates a sex predilection, with males making up more than 60% of patients with chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. In general, alcoholic liver disease and viral hepatitis are the most common causes for esophageal varices in both sexes.