Candy Cane Esophagus Is A Real Condition (But It's Not What You Think)

To get myself into the holiday spirit, I decided to search for "candy cane injuries," expecting to see a lot of impalings. I found something entirely different. You are likely to get this "candy cane" injury during the holidays (at least if you live in the northern hemisphere, where it's cold) but it's not due to peppermint candy.


It might be due to peppermint tea. Or hot soup on a cold day. (Or, in one case, doing crack, but that's not seasonal.) Candy cane esophagus is what happens when you severely burn your esophagus, usually by drinking near-boiling liquids.

Unsurprisingly, this type of behavior results in difficulty swallowing, a burning sensation in the mouth, and chest pain. A more startling symptom is a bright red-and-white striped esophagus.


The dark red stripes come from hyperemia, the increase in blood flow to an area due to dilation of the blood vessels. Hyperemia is a common response to burns or other injuries. The white stripes on the esophagus are usually described as a "pseudomembrane." They're thick layers of dead epithelial cells. Although leaving the hot liquids (or crack) alone for about a week relieves most of the symptoms, these layers of dead cells can leave scars. Meaning, yes, your esophagus can be permanently candy-caned. This leaves me wondering, can other bodily passages get candy-caned? You know the ones I'm talking about.


[Via Candy Cocaine Esophagus, Esophageal Thermal Injury, Thermal Injury of the Esophagus]


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