What is it?
Esophageal varices are abnormal, enlarged veins in the lower part of the tube running from the throat to the stomach. This condition occurs most often in people with serious liver diseases. Esophageal varices develop when normal blood flow to the liver is blocked by a clot or scar tissue in the liver. To go around the blockages, blood flows into smaller blood vessels that aren’t designed to carry large volumes of blood. The vessels can leak blood or even rupture, causing life-threatening bleeding.
What are the symptoms?
Esophageal varices usually don’t cause signs and symptoms unless they bleed. Signs and symptoms of bleeding esophageal varices include: * Vomiting and seeing significant amounts of blood in your vomit * Black, tarry or bloody stools * Lightheadedness * Loss of consciousness (in severe case) Your doctor might suspect varices if you have signs of liver disease, including: * Yellow coloration of your skin and eyes (jaundice) * Easy bleeding or bruising * Fluid buildup in your abdomen (ascites)
- Eat a healthy diet. Choose a plant-based diet that’s full of fruits and vegetables. Select whole grains and lean sources of protein. Reduce the amount of fatty and fried foods you eat.
- Maintain a healthy weight. An excess amount of body fat can damage your liver. Obesity is associated with a greater risk of complications of cirrhosis. Lose weight if you are obese or overweight.
- Use chemicals sparingly and carefully. Follow the directions on household chemicals, such as cleaning supplies and insect sprays. If you work around chemicals, follow all safety precautions. Your liver removes toxins from your body, so give it a break by limiting the amount of toxins it must process.
- Don’t drink alcohol. People with liver disease are often advised to stop drinking alcohol, since the liver processes alcohol. Drinking alcohol may stress an already vulnerable liver.
- Reduce your risk of hepatitis. Sharing needles and having unprotected sex can increase your risk of hepatitis B and C. Protect yourself by abstaining from sex or using a condom if you choose to have sex. Ask your doctor whether you should be vaccinated for hepatitis B and hepatitis A
Things to watch out for
Contact your GP if you have any symptoms.Bleeding esophageal varices are an emergency. Call 000 or your local emergency services right away if you have bloody vomit or bloody stools.