What Are Esophageal Varices?

What Are Esophageal Varices?

Esophageal varices are enlarged veins in the esophagus. When a clot or scar tissue in the liver blocks the normal blood flow to the liver, blood flows into smaller blood vessels that aren’t able to carry large volumes of blood. Thus esophageal varices develop and over time the vessuels can leak blood or even rupture.

Esophageal varices

Signs and symptoms

Only bleeding esophageal varices can cause signs and symptoms, which may include:

  • Vomiting and seeing significant amounts of blood in your vomit
  • Black, tarry or bloody stools
  • Light Headedness
  • Loss of consciousness (in severe cases)

Your doctor might suspect varices if you have signs of liver disease, including:

  • Yellow coloration of your skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Easy bleeding or bruising
  • Fluid buildup in your abdomen (ascites)


  • Severe liver scarring (cirrhosis).
    A number of liver diseases can result in cirrhosis, such as hepatitis infection, alcoholic liver disease, fatty liver disease and a bile duct disorder.
  • Blood clot (thrombosis).
    A blood clot in the portal vein or in a vein that feeds into the portal vein (splenic vein) can be a cause.
  • A parasitic infection.
    Schistosomiasis is a parasitic infection that can damage the liver, as well as the lungs, intestine and bladder.


Risk factors

Severe esophageal varices may occur if you have:

  • High portal vein pressure.
  • Large varices.
  • Red marks on the varices.
  • Severe cirrhosis or liver failure.
  • Continued alcohol use.


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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.