5 Conditions Commonly Diagnosed With an Upper GI Endoscopy

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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Slide 2: 9 Things You Should Know About Endoscopy

Doctors use endoscopy for a close-up view of the upper digestive tract—the esophagus, stomach, and the first part of the small intestine. Doctors use upper GI endoscopy—also known as esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD)—to diagnose a range of diseases and conditions. An upper GI endoscopy can diagnose problems that affect the lining of the upper GI tract or block the passage of food. Take a look at some of the more common conditions.

1. GERD and Barrett’s Esophagus 

GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) occurs when gastric acid flows from the stomach into the esophagus. GERD can damage the lining of the esophagus. It also causes Barrett’s esophagus, the growth of abnormal cells that can lead to cancer. 

Your doctor may order an upper GI endoscopy if you have long-term symptoms of GERD. Typical symptoms include heartburn, indigestion, regurgitation and nausea

Doctors perform an upper GI endoscopy with a special light that highlights abnormal tissue, and then they take a biopsy. This is a small sample of the lining. A pathology lab can tell if the cells are abnormal.

2. Inflammation and Ulcers

An upper GI endoscopy with a biopsy can detect inflammation inside the upper GI tract including:

  • Duodenitis, inflammation of the duodenum 
  • Esophagitis, inflammation of the esophagus
  • Gastritis, inflammation of the stomach

Inflammation can cause erosion and ulcers. Inflammation is commonly caused by a Helicobacter pylori infection. This infection can lead to duodenal and stomach (peptic) ulcers.

Your doctor may order an upper GI endoscopy if you have symptoms of inflammation or ulcer. Typical symptoms include nausea, vomiting, belching, bloating, and burning stomach pain.  

3. Cancer and Tumors

Doctors can see ulceration, abnormal bumps, and masses during an upper GI endoscopy. In this case, your doctor will take a biopsy. The biopsy is examined in a lab to determine if the biopsy sample is benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer). The most common cancer of the upper GI tract is stomach (gastric) cancer, followed by esophageal cancer. Duodenal cancer is relatively rare. 

Your doctor may order an upper GI endoscopy if you have risk factors or symptoms of upper GI cancer. Risks factors include long-term gastritis or a family history of cancer. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, anemia, and pain with swallowing.

4. Esophageal Stricture 

An esophageal stricture is a narrowing of the esophagus. It blocks the normal passage of food and liquids into the stomach. Large pieces of food can even get stuck. GERD or tumors can lead to stricture.

Your doctor may order an upper GI endoscopy if you have symptoms of an esophageal stricture. Typical symptoms include difficulty swallowing, chest pressure, shortness of breath, and vomiting. Your doctor can see, and possibly treat, the stricture during endoscopy

5. Esophageal Varices

Esophageal varices are enlarged veins in the walls of the esophagus that can rupture and bleed. Someone with esophageal varices may vomit blood and have black, tarry or bloody stools. The loss of blood can be life threatening. There are usually no symptoms until they bleed.

Having liver disease is a major risk factor for esophageal varices. To prevent serious problems, your doctor may order an upper GI endoscopy if you have liver disease. Doctors can see and treat varices with an upper GI endoscopy. It may be performed as an emergency procedure if there is active bleeding.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Sep 8
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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