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Alternative Names Return to topEsophageal achalasia
Definition Return to top
Achalasia is a disorder of the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach (esophagus), which affects the ability of the esophagus to move food toward the stomach
Causes Return to top
The main problem in achalasia is a failure of the a muscular ring where the esophagus and stomach come together (lower esophageal sphincter) to relax during swallowing.
Another part of the disorder is a lack of nerve stimulation to the muscles of the esophagus. Causes include:
As a result, the wave-like contractions of smooth muscles that normally force food through the esophagus and other parts of the digestive tract do not work as well. (These contractions are called peristalsis.)
Achalasia is a rare disorder. It may occur at any age, but is most common in middle-aged or older adults.
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
Physical examination may show signs of anemia.
Treatment Return to top
The approach to treatment is to reduce the pressure at the lower esophageal sphincter. Therapy may involve:
Your doctor can help you decide which treatment is best for your situation.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The outcomes of surgery and nonsurgical treatments are similar. Sometimes more than one treatment is necessary.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if you have difficulty swallowing or painful swallowing, or if your symptoms continue despite treatment for achalasia.
Prevention Return to top
Many of the causes of achalasia are not preventable. However, treatment of the disorder may help to prevent complications.
References Return to topGoldman L, Ausiello DA, et al. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007. Update Date: 2/20/2008 Updated by: Christian Stone, MD, Division of Gastroenterology, Washington University in St. Louis, School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.