Benign Diseases of the Esophagus: Esophageal Rings, Webs, and Plummer-Vinson Syndrome

Benign Diseases of the Esophagus: Esophageal Rings, Webs, and Plummer-Vinson Syndrome

The esophagus, a muscular tube that transports food from the mouth to the stomach, can develop various benign conditions that may affect its function. Among these, esophageal rings, webs, and Plummer-Vinson Syndrome are notable for their unique characteristics and impact on health. Understanding these conditions can help patients recognize symptoms and seek appropriate treatment.

Esophageal Rings and Webs

Esophageal rings and webs are growths of tissue that partially obstruct the esophagus. While most patients with these conditions are asymptomatic, they can sometimes present with symptoms of dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing.

Esophageal Rings

Esophageal rings are categorized as “A” and “B” rings, previously known as Schatzki rings. These rings are most commonly found in the lower esophagus but can occur along its entire length.

  • A Rings: These are rare and typically found in children. They are believed to be normal smooth muscle contractions of the distal esophagus located at the gastroesophageal junction (GEJ). Patients with symptomatic A rings may experience intermittent difficulty swallowing solid foods.

  • B Rings (Schatzki Rings): First described by Schatzki in 1953, these rings are circumferential strictures located at the GEJ. They are composed of connective tissue and the muscularis mucosa and are often associated with hiatal hernias. Symptoms include dysphagia, and B rings are frequently linked to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and esophagitis.

Esophageal Rings

Esophageal Webs

Esophageal webs are thin membranes, less than 2 mm in diameter, that encroach on the esophageal lumen. They are most commonly found in the upper esophagus near the cricoid cartilage. The cause of esophageal webs is not fully understood, but they have been associated with chronic GERD, congenital factors, and certain diseases like iron-deficiency anemia and epidermolysis bullosa.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Most patients with esophageal rings and webs are asymptomatic. However, some may experience dysphagia to solids, such as meat and bread. Diagnosis is typically made through barium esophagram or upper endoscopy. For Schatzki rings, barium esophagram reveals characteristic protrusions near the GEJ.

Treatment and Management

Treatment for esophageal rings and webs often involves dietary modifications, such as thorough chewing of food. In cases of obstruction, esophagoscopy with bolus extraction or glucagon administration can relieve symptoms. Dilatation may be necessary for more severe cases, and patients with GERD-associated rings may benefit from proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs).

Plummer-Vinson Syndrome

Plummer-Vinson Syndrome (PVS) is a rare condition characterized by a triad of iron-deficiency anemia, dysphagia, and esophageal webs. It predominantly affects premenopausal women.

Plummer-Vinson Syndrome

Clinical Picture

Patients with PVS typically present with symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia, such as weakness and glossitis (inflammation of the tongue). Dysphagia to solids is common, and there may be atrophic changes in the oral mucosa and esophagus.


Diagnosis of PVS is based on clinical symptoms, barium esophagram findings of esophageal webs, and laboratory tests showing iron-deficiency anemia. A biopsy may reveal epithelial atrophy and chronic inflammation.

Treatment and Management

The primary treatment for PVS is iron supplementation, which often leads to resolution of dysphagia and other symptoms. In cases of significant esophageal obstruction, dilatation may be necessary. Regular monitoring for esophageal squamous cell carcinoma is recommended, although routine endoscopic surveillance has not been shown to improve outcomes.

Course and Prognosis

With appropriate treatment, anemia and dysphagia in PVS can be effectively managed. However, long-term follow-up is important due to the increased risk of malignancies in the esophagus and hypopharynx.


Benign diseases of the esophagus, such as esophageal rings, webs, and Plummer-Vinson Syndrome, can significantly impact a patient’s quality of life. Understanding these conditions, recognizing symptoms, and seeking timely treatment are crucial for managing these esophageal disorders effectively.

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