The esophagus is a muscular tube-like organ in the human body that connects the throat (pharynx) to the stomach. It is about 10-13 inches long and runs behind the trachea (windpipe) and in front of the spinal column. The primary function of the esophagus is to transport food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach for digestion.
When food is chewed and swallowed, it passes through the pharynx and enters the esophagus. The muscles in the esophagus contract and relax, pushing the food downward towards the stomach in a coordinated manner called peristalsis. At the lower end of the esophagus, there is a ring of muscles called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) that opens to allow food to enter the stomach and then closes to prevent stomach acid and contents from flowing back up into the esophagus, which can cause discomfort and damage to the lining of the esophagus.
Disorders of the esophagus can include conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), esophageal cancer, esophageal spasms, and Barrett’s esophagus. Treatment options vary depending on the condition and can include lifestyle modifications, medications, and surgery in some cases.