The esophagus is an important organ of the digestive system. Derived from Latin vocabulary, this term means “what carries and eats”. This 25 to 30-centimeter long tube extends from the oral cavity to the stomach passing via an opening in the diaphragm. The esophagus is distinguished into three segments, namely cervical, thoracic and abdominal.
The inner surface of the esophagus is lined by stratified squamous epithelial cells that protect it from any coarse food molecules and the mucosa prevents damage to the tube from acid content in the food. The entry and exit of the esophagus is guarded by two sphincters. Unlike all the other organs of the digestive system, the esophagus plays no role in the breakdown of the food particles. Its basic function is to facilitate the passage of chewed food from the mouth or oral cavity to the stomach, where it is further churned.
The movement of food is conducted by the rhythmic action of the esophageal muscles. This process is termed as peristalsis and is responsible for the fact that a human being can intake solids and liquids even in an upside down posture. The upper and lower end sphincters help in ensuring that there is no back flow of food either to the throat or the stomach. In circumstances wherein the lower sphincter does not work adequately, the food from the stomach gains entry back into the esophagus resulting in the disorder called acid reflux or heartburn. Similarly, the backflow of the stomach acid into the throat owing to malfunctioning in the upper sphincter leads to the laryngopharyngeal reflux disease. Gastroesophageal reflux can eventually result into ulcers which make the individual extremely susceptible to cancer.
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