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What is Achalasia?

Achalasia, also known as esophageal achalasia, is a condition in which the esophagus (a tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach) is unable to move the food into the stomach. A lower esophageal sphincter is a ring of muscle fibers that surrounds the lower-most end of the esophagus where it joins the stomach. LES acts like a valve between the esophagus and stomach, preventing food from moving backward into the esophagus. In people with achalasia, the LES fails to relax during swallowing, resulting in the food moving backward into the esophagus.

Symptoms of Achalasia

The main symptoms of achalasia include:

  • Difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Regurgitation of food
  • Heartburn
  • Weight loss
  • Chest pain
  • Cough

Diagnosis of Achalasia

Your doctor may order the following tests to diagnose achalasia:

  • Barium swallow test: The test involves swallowing a barium preparation while X-rays are taken. The barium coats the walls of the esophagus and stomach and makes the abnormalities visible more clearly.
  • Endoscopy: This test allows the doctor to examine the inside of the patient's esophagus, stomach, and portions of the intestine, with an instrument, called an endoscope, a thin, flexible, lighted tube.
  • Manometry: It is a test that measures changes in pressure exerted by the esophageal sphincter.

Treatment for Achalasia

Treatment options for achalasia include:

  • Medications: Medications such as nitrates and calcium channel blockers are recommended to relax the lower esophagus sphincter.
  • Botox: Botulinum toxin injection can be administered to help relax the sphincter muscles
  • Laparoscopic/Robotic Heller Myotomy: It is a surgical procedure in which the sphincter muscle is cut to allow the esophagus to open.

Depending on your condition your doctor will decide which treatment is right for you.