Plummer-Vinson syndrome/esophageal web

Alternative names
Paterson-Kelly syndrome; Sideropenic dysphagia

Plummer-Vinson syndrome is a disorder linked to severe, long-term Iron deficiency anemia, which causes swallowing difficulty due to web-like membranes of tissue growing in the throat.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The cause of Plummer-Vinson syndrome is unknown. Genetic factors and nutritional deficiencies may play a role. Women are at higher risk than men.


  • Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)  
  • Weakness

Signs and tests

Upper GI series or upper endoscopy may reveal the web. Tests to diagnose anemia and/or iron deficiency may be useful.


Patients with Plummer-Vinson syndrome should receive iron supplementation. This may improve the difficulty swallowing. If not, the web can be dilated during upper endoscopy to allow normal swallowing and passage of food.

Expectations (prognosis)

Patients generally respond to treatment.


There is risk of perforation of the esophagus with the use of dilators for treatment.

There have been reports of an association between Plummer-Vinson syndrome and esophageal cancer.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if food gets stuck after you swallow it or if you have severe fatigue and weakness.


Good nutrition with adequate intake of iron may prevent this disorder.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 5, 2012
by David A. Scott, M.D.

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