Esophageal Varices

Esophageal Varices


Esophageal varices are enlarged veins in the esophagus, commonly occurring in patients with liver disease. The varices can be asymptomatic if mild but may turn dangerous if they rupture and bleed.

Signs and symptoms

Most patients do not realise they have varices until they rupture, as they are largely asymptomatic. When they rupture, the patient may vomit blood, have bloody stools, experience symptoms of shock and faint.

Causes and risk factors

Esophageal varices usually occur in patients with liver disease. Due to disease, the blood pressure in the portal vein increases and pushes blood into the surrounding organs, like the esophagus. This additional pressure creates swelling in the veins and then forms varices. If the blood pressure exceeds the threshold amount, the patient experiences rupture. Liver cirrhosis, fatty liver disease or viral hepatitis could cause this condition. Patients with high blood pressure, alcoholics and patients in liver failure are at a higher risk of esophageal varices rupturing.


The most serious complication from esophageal varices is bleeding. If the body loses too much blood, it can go into shock and start shutting down.


Patients with liver disease should be screened for esophageal varices regularly. This is done by performing an endoscopy. An additional CT scan or MRI may also be required.

Treatment and Surgical Interventions

Treatment for Esophageal varices targets 3 things – prevention of further liver damage, prevention of varices rupturing and control of bleeding in case of rupture. Further liver damage is prevented by avoiding the consumption of food or beverages that build up toxins in the body. The aim is to have a diet that gives the liver a break. The doctor will also prescribe medication to keep the blood pressure down. This will help prevent the varices from rupturing. In case of rupture, the doctor will control and prevent bleeding through the application of pressure and various pressure-reducing medications. The liver condition will have to be treated aggressively and in extreme cases, a liver transplant may be required.


Keep your liver healthy. Reduce intake of alcohol and fatty foods. Keeping your blood pressure in the recommended range will also help.


Endoscopy Guidelines

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