Sat, Jul 23, 2016 - Page 4 News List

Man suffers from rare throat condition

Staff writer, with CNA

A rare medical condition has left a man — whose name was not disclosed — with food rotting a hole in his throat.

Three years ago, a 40-year-old engineer began suffering from repeated throat inflammation, experiencing difficulty swallowing and often choking or gagging on his food.

The man later started emitting a rotting odor through his breath, with the odor so putrid that it began to seriously affect his personal life. At first, he thought it was because of his habit of staying up late, which can cause a type of gastroesophageal reflux, but what doctors uncovered was a rare condition called esophageal diverticulum.

“The human esophagus is like a 25cm straight pipe through which food is transported to be digested in the stomach. Having an esophageal diverticulum is like having your esophagus grow a new room in the middle of your esophagus, which intercepts food from being delivered into the stomach,” Shin Kong Wu Ho-Su Memorial Hospital otolaryngologist Li Jia-rong (李佳融) said, adding that the intercepted food then slowly rots within the esophagus.

“The cause of esophageal diverticula is mostly genetics. Some people have a thinner mucus lining covering the opening of their esophagus, in which food is more likely to get caught, thus slowly forming a diverticulum, or pouch,” Li said.

This causes difficulty in swallowing and small deformities within the respiratory track, he said.

Esophageal diverticula are a rare condition that usually occur in people aged 40 to 60. For every 100,000 people, there are only two to three cases.

“Symptoms of esophageal diverticula can include tightness in the chest area, bad breath and throat inflammation. Even drinking water, eating a bowl of rice or noodles can cause choking,” Li said.

In the past, neck surgery was the only known treatment, but it is considered quite dangerous because of the likelihood of nerve damage.

Even after a successful operation, the patient might continue to experience some eating difficulty, as well as be left with a visible scar from the surgery.

Recently, doctors in Taiwan performed the first endoscopic esophageal diverticula laser ostomy as a new form of treatment for the condition, Li said, adding the new treatment leaves the patient scar-free and can help reduce the risk of infection.

After just one week of recovery, patients would not only be able to eat normally, but could also return to their normal lives, he said.

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