What Causes a Schatzki Ring and How to Treat Them

First detected and diagnosed by a German-American radiologist named Robert Schatzki, hence the name, in 1953, Schatzki ring is a circular mass or ring of tissue found in the upper esophagus, just at the tip of passageway connecting the stomach and throat. It resembles a ring formed inside the esophagus, narrowing the passageway.

cigarette stick broken in half on a palm of hand

Have you ever experienced suddenly feeling that something has gotten stuck around your chest? Or having difficulty swallowing chunks or pieces of meat, sausages, or the like? Although you don’t end up feeling suffocated or losing breath, you are left with a feeling that there is a blockage or something is blocking your food from smoothly going down the throat to the digestive area.  

There are some simple explanations as to why some people experience this; it could be that food was not properly chewed before swallowing so big chunks did not go properly down the throat and esophagus. Or food was not properly digested since you were eating way too fast, which disturbed the digestive area. These possible scenarios are temporary and may immediately dissipate after hours or after taking stomach relaxants.  

However, there are very few instances that it could be due to something more complex than indigestion or not chewing one’s food properly. It could be a Schatzki ring.

What To Know About Schatzki Ring

First detected and diagnosed by a German-American radiologist named Robert Schatzki, hence the name, in 1953, Schatzki ring is a circular mass or ring of tissue found in the upper esophagus, just at the tip of passageway connecting the stomach and throat. It resembles a ring formed inside the esophagus, narrowing the passageway. Also called lower oesophageal ring, Schatzi ring varies in size, the smaller the size though, the more it constricts the passageway thus people who have this experience difficulty in swallowing food, especially solid food like meat and sausages.

Causes and Symptoms

Unfortunately, while this syndrome affects around three percent of the populace, no one is certain yet of its origin or what caused it in the first place. Some suggest that it could be hereditary or, genetics plays a key role. Other meanwhile says that Schatzki ring is connected with GERD as people who experience this also suffer from intense acid reflux.  

GERD or Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a non- fatal ailment that brings discomfort to a lot of people. Some are left with a bitter taste in the mouth. Likewise, the pressure is felt around the chest area then goes up towards the neck, which causes the person to experience heartburn. Hence the reason why some speculate on the connection of Schatzki Ring with GERD.  

When Schatzki ring constricts, the person experiences dysphagia or food impaction.

Schatzki’s ring does not have any symptoms. A person can have one without feeling it; it only begins to manifest once the diameter of the ring constricts thus the person would suddenly experience trouble swallowing food, heartburn similar to acid reflux, dysphagia, and feeling like food is stuck in the throat or chest.

The feeling may however intensify which could lead to severe chest pains. This happens when food bolus obstruction occurs, or when a ball of food forms or accumulates in the opening of the esophagus. When this happens, the person suffering from the discomfort needs to be taken to the hospital for the obstruction to be removed by a doctor, either by pushing or pulling with an endoscope.

How To Detect Schatzki Ring

Not all who experience difficulty swallowing food or heartburn have a Schatzki ring. Again it could just be due to improper chewing of food. Thus, it is necessary to have oneself examined to determine if the Schatzki ring is present in your upper gastrointestinal system.

Below are some medical methods that can help detect and diagnose:

  • Endoscopy: This involves a slim long, flexible tube with a minuscule camera inserted from the mouth to the esophagus to examine the inner lining of the esophagus and also the stomach. Endoscopy is more accurate not only in detecting Schatzki ring but also other digestive related illnesses.  
  • Barium X-ray. In Barium x-ray, a dye lines the esophagus, which makes it easier to have an x-ray image. However, the chances of correctly diagnosing are quite slim – from six to 14 percent. A person who undergoes this method needs to swallow a pill that contains the dye or coloring for the esophagus. 

Treatment for Schatzki ring

Schatzki ring has no medicines that can remove or reduce its diameter. However, there are few medical ways to manage it.  

Oesophageal dilation

This procedure is not to surgically remove but to widen the constricted portion of the esophagus. How is it done? A balloon or a plastic tool is inserted into the constricted area or where the ring is, to open it up a bit. Before this method takes place, the patient is sedated. 

After the procedure, the patient needs at least 12 to 24 hours before he or she can eat or drink – or at least after the numbness wears off. Doing heavy lifting or work is also not advisable.

Inserting a bougie

Quite similar to oesophageal dilation or balloon technique, a bougie or an instrument with not so sharp tip is inserted to open or widen the Schatzki ring.

Some less intrusive methods can also be adopted. Adjustments in eating are also effective such as masticating food slowly and properly before chewing and then sipping water after swallowing. 

Another is by taking smaller bites or small portions of solid food. Avoiding very tough to chew food is also good.

Food and Drinks To Avoid

Since Schatzki Ring sufferers also share some pains similar to acid reflux, adopting some same measures will be useful too. These include:

  • Avoid or limit coffee and beverages high in caffeine
  • Stay away from spicy food
  • Reduce oily fats consumption
  • Avoid eating chocolates
  • Weight loss
  • Meditate to lessen stress

Schatzki’s ring is non-fatal. To avoid any bothersome aches and pains, manage what you eat, and adjust your eating. Do not panic if you are feeling some of the symptoms mentioned. You can either adopt the natural strategies or go to a doctor for proper diagnosis and advice. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *