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What Are The Symptoms Of A Tear In The Esophagus & Can An Esophagus Tear Heal Itself?

An esophagus is a smooth muscle tube which allows the food to move from the pharynx that is the back of the throat to the stomach. With the help of this tube, the liquid and the food is passed from the mouth to the stomach. A perforation or a tear in the esophagus is very uncommon and needs serious medication. So, what are the symptoms of a tear in the esophagus? Can a tear in the esophagus heal itself? There are many such questions revolving around this condition. It is necessary to know about the tear in the esophagus in detail.

What Is A Tear In The Esophagus And Who Are At Risk Of It?

A tear in the esophagus is also called as perforated esophagus, which means that the esophagus has ruptured or there is a tear with a hole in it. The hole results in the food leakage. At times, the digestive liquid moves to the chest which can cause severe infection. According to studies, men are most likely to suffer from this condition than women and it usually takes place after binge eating. Alcohol plays a major role in this condition. It can also be put forth that such a condition is also common among the people who are suffering from some underlying diseases of the esophagus like a hernia or even GERD.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Tear In The Esophagus?

What Are The Symptoms Of A Tear In The Esophagus?

The condition of a tear in the esophagus can mimic other gastric problems, hence it is important to know the characteristic symptoms of a tear in the esophagus. Here are some of the symptoms of a tear in the esophagus:

A person suffering from a hole in the esophagus will definitely have some difficulty in terms of swallowing food and liquids. This is the most prominent symptom of a tear in the esophagus.

Vomiting or retching is one of the commonest symptoms which are accompanied by severe pain in the chest.1

The patient will undergo difficulty in breathing and speaking.

Another common symptom of a tear in the esophagus is discomfort in the throat and neck region. There can be a severe neck, upper and lower back along with shoulder pain. The uneasiness is most likely to increase when the person is lying down in a flat posture.

Increased heart rate with rapid breathing.

The patient often experiences fever and sometimes even vomits blood. The vomiting of blood is a rare case, but often needs emergency medical treatment.

There is a possibility of the presence of a gas or air in the layer under the skin which is mainly in the chest and neck. This is commonly known as subcutaneous emphysema.

Stiffness and neck ache might take place as the cervical area is diagnosed with a perforation or hole.

The blood pressure fluctuates under this condition, but mostly the patient suffers from low blood pressure which ultimately weakens the body.

Mallory-Weiss Syndrome (MWS) is a medical condition where there is a tear in the mucous membrane. It can also take place in the inner lining of the esophagus at the area where the esophagus and the stomach meet. The tears mostly heal with time but in case of Mallory-Weiss Syndrome, there can be substantial bleeding. In order to heal the damage, the seriousness of the condition needs to be taken into consideration and effective measures should be put to use. One may have vomiting alongside some stomach illness which is mainly due to chronic abuse or bulimia.

Causes of a Tear in the Esophagus

Let us know some of the causes of a tear in the esophagus:

  • When patients undergo endoscopy and when the dilation of the esophageal strictures is involved, tear in the esophagus is likely to take place. The procedure involved in the placement of the endotracheal tube, Blakemore tube or nasogastric tube also leads towards the above-mentioned condition. The people who are more than 65 years of age have an increased risk.1
  • Cleaners and disc batteries are extremely harmful, and the ingestion of these perilous chemicals is one of the causes of a tear in the esophagus. The ingestion of pills and foreign objects like coins are also the culprits.
  • The injuries that are related to a gunshot or the stab wound are also one of the causes which are about 10% of the cases.
  • As a result of continuous vomiting and retching, the esophagus ruptures spontaneously which is a very rare condition. Such a condition is called Boerhaave syndrome which is commonest among the people aged between 40 to 60 years which account for approximately 15% of the cases. There are also cases of children and young adults with tears.
  • In case there is a complication in surgery which includes cardiothoracic surgery or even fundoplication then tear in the esophagus might take place. However, the possibility of fundoplication is extremely rare.
  • Esophageal wall thinning can also lead to tear in the esophagus.

Can An Esophagus Tear Heal Itself?

One of the commonly asked questions is can a tear in the esophagus heal itself? Let us understand the facts related to this. Mostly, the esophagus tear heals on its own within a span of 7 to 10 days. The process of healing does not require any treatment. This clearly explains that in mild cases, a tear in the esophagus can heal itself, if there are no complications. Timely treatment to control sepsis can allow healing and avoid surgery.2 However, the severity of the condition and the need for a surgery for esophagus tear is best decided by the treating doctor.

It should be noted that if the esophagus tear causes significant bleeding, some treatment is essential. The severity of the tear in the esophagus needs to be taken into consideration in order to repair the damage. Bleeding that results from the tear in the esophagus generally stops on its own for about 90% of the cases. The process of healing is a matter of a few days. Endoscopic therapy, surgical options and medication should be opted without further delay if the bleeding does not stop after 7-8 days.

The procedure of self-healing is faster when fluid flows back to the esophagus. Surgery is not required if the hole is present in the abdominal or chest area.


The tear in the esophagus is a rare condition but can turn out to be quite serious and deadly in some situations. Speedy and rapid treatment and along with proper attention gives the best result but, in many cases the treatment is delayed, or misdiagnosed, leading to further complications. At times it is observed that a tear in the esophagus is muddled with certain other circumstances like peptic ulcers, pancreatitis and even heart attack.

Now that you are aware of the symptoms of a tear in the esophagus, any possible symptoms should be immediately attended. It is necessary to visit the emergency room at the earliest if such symptoms are experienced by someone who has recently undergone any esophageal surgery or having a problem in breathing and swallowing.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3533215/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1357179/

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 28, 2020

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