Is CMV Esophagitis?
CMV esophagitis is a serious infection caused by a pathogen
called Cytomegalovirus. CMV esophagitis
is really two linked conditions. It’s an infection from this virus and the
esophagitis that often occurs as a result of that infection.
Cytomegalovirus is common
virus in the same family as the herpes, shingles, and Epstein-Barr viruses. The
virus can live in your body in a dormant state for many years. Later in life,
it can become activated, and may pose a significant health risk if your body’s
immune system becomes weakened, or if you are re-exposed to the virus.
When this virus becomes activated, it can invade various body
parts and organs, causing serious infections. CMV esophagitis is one example of
what can happen when the active form of this virus infects a specific body
Are the Symptoms of CMV Esophagitis?
CMV esophagitis involves a wide range of symptoms, including:
- difficulty swallowing
- pain while swallowing
- stomach pain
- loss of appetite
- a fever
- spitting or coughing up blood
The symptoms can become so severe that you can lose your
appetite, lose weight, and become undernourished. Poor nutrition can further
weaken your immune system.
Do You Get CMV Esophagitis?
CMV is transmitted three ways:
- from mothers to infants
- through normal child-to-child contact
- through adult contact with bodily fluids
Each type of contact has different degrees of risk.
CMV that’s transmitted from mothers to infants is one of the most
serious forms of the virus, causing life-threatening infections in babies. If
you’re pregnant and have CMV, your doctor will want to take special precautions
to try to prevent your baby from getting the virus.
Childhood transmission is usually not serious. School-aged children
pass CMV to each other via contact with other children’s saliva, urine, or
nasal secretions. Childhood CMV usually remains dormant for many years, with no
symptoms or illness.
Adult transmission or reinfection is serious. You can
acquire or re-acquire CMV as an adult through blood transfusions, sexual
contact, or other exchanges of body fluids. If you had latent CMV exposure as a
child, re-exposure as an adult can trigger serious illness. Activated CMV can
cause many illnesses, such as:
- CMV retinitis
- CMV colitis
- CMV adrenalitis
- CMV pneumonia
- CMV esophagitis
How Does CMV Become CMV Esophagitis?
Your esophagus is the long tube that extends from your throat to
your stomach. If CMV infects your esophagus, you can develop CMV esophagitis, which
is a very painful infection.
and Risk Factors
Between 50 and 80 percent of people in the United States are
infected by CMV by age 40, according to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC). In most cases, CMV remains inactive and causes no symptoms.
The people at greatest risk of serious CMV infections are those
whose immune systems are weakened, such as:
- people who have HIV or AIDS
- people who’ve received a transplant and are using
- people who have cancer
- people who take long-term corticosteroids, such
- people who are very sick
- older adults
Is CMV Esophagitis Diagnosed?
The primary and most accurate diagnostic test for CMV esophagitis
is the esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD), which is also known as an upper GI
endoscopy. The test allows your doctor to visually look at your entire
intestinal tract and take biopsies of damaged tissue.
This EGD is performed as an office procedure, usually under local
anesthetic. While lying on your side, you’ll be fitted with a mouthpiece. Your
doctor will insert a long, flexible tube through the mouthpiece, down your
throat, and into your stomach so they can inspect your intestinal tract.
Your doctor will first look for signs of CMV, such as shallow
ulcers on the walls of your esophagus. Samples of diseased tissue may be taken
through the endoscope. The tissue samples will be examined in a lab for
abnormal cells and tested for different types of antigens and viruses. This is
known as a biopsy. The results will help your doctor determine whether your
condition is from CMV or another cause.
Is CMV Esophagitis Treated?
Your doctor may prescribe intravenous (IV) ganciclovir, which is an
antiviral drug used for both HIV and CMV infections. If for any reason
ganciclovir can’t be used, other effective treatments include valganciclovir,
cidofovir, or foscarnet. In some cases, combination therapy of two or more
drugs may be recommended.
However, serious side effects have been reported when people take
multiple drugs, so your doctor will probably try treating your condition with
one at a time initially.
Is the Outlook for People with CMV Esophagitis?
Your outlook is fairly good if you’re relatively healthy, contract
CMV esophagitis, and get treated early. If you have damaged immunity, your
outlook for CMV-related diseases depends on many factors. Speak with your
doctor to learn more.
CMV Esophagitis Be Prevented?
You probably won’t be able to prevent the childhood form of CMV. The
virus is common and mostly harmless. Preventing adult transmission or
retransmission is far more important. The best way to avoid CMV as an adult is
to practice safe sex and avoid sharing needles and exchanging bodily fluids
Preventing transmission from mothers to infants is an important
focus of research. Scientists are working on CMV vaccines for young women in
the hopes of one day preventing transmission from mothers to babies.