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The tube that carries food to your stomach from your throat is called the oesophagus. When the muscular valve (lower oesophagus sphincter) in the oesophagus fails to relax and carry the food to the stomach, the condition is termed as achalasia.
Achalasia has a variety of causes, and can be difficult for your doctor to diagnose the exact cause. Some common causes of achalasia include:
1. Hereditary predispositions
2. Autoimmune disorders (The immune system erroneously destroys healthy cells in the body)
3. Nerve degeneration in the oesophagus
There other medical conditions that often lead to symptoms identical to achalasia, such as oesophageal cancer and Chagas’ disease (an infectious disease caused by a parasite).
Other symptoms of achalasia include:
The most prominent symptom of achalasia is dysphagia, which is characterised by swallowing difficulties or sensations of food stuck in the oesophagus. Dysphagia often triggers coughing and shortness of breath or choking on food.
1. Discomfort or pain in the chest
2. Weight loss
4. Intense discomfort or pain after eating
Some of the treatments include:
Most of the methods to treat achalasia focus on the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES). The treatments used can either permanently alter the sphincter’s function, or reduce symptoms.
1. Oral medications such as calcium channel blockers or nitrates are prescribed, which can relax the LES to let food pass through with more ease. Your doctor may also treat the LES with Botox.
2. For a more permanent treatment, the sphincter can be dilated or altered. In dilation, a balloon is inserted into the oesophagus and it is inflated. This will stretch out your oesophagus to improve function.
3. To alter the oesophagus, oesophagomyotomy is performed. It is a kind of surgery where minimal incisions are made to gain access to the LES, and then it is carefully altered to improve flow of food to the stomach.
Unlike dilation, which can cause complications such as tears in the oesophagus, oesophagomyotomy has a greater success rate. However, certain complications may still arise, such as:
1. Acid reflux
2. Respiratory conditions that are caused by food entering your windpipe
GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease is a chronic digestive disease which occurs when the stomach acid and at times the contents in your stomach flows backwards into the food pipe. The backwash or reflux irritates the esophagus's lining and hence causes GERD. Individuals may manage GERD's discomfort by changing their lifestyle and by taking over-the-counter or OTC medications. But, certain people might also require stronger medications or surgery for reducing the symptoms.
Some of the basic signs include chest pain, burning sensation in the chest, dry cough, difficulty in swallowing, sore throat, etc. If you experience such symptoms at least twice a week or if your physician notices damage in your food pipe, then you might undergo diagnosis. Though drugs are the primary GERD treatment yet, an individual can manage it by following certain tips which may give relief.
Few ways to manage GERD- self-care tips:
- One of the effective ways to help yourself is by consuming smaller meals. Instead of taking three big meals regularly, you may try having smaller meals frequently and avoid stuffing.
- Almost all individuals tend to have dinner just half an hour before sleep, but this might affect GERD patients. It is best to eat 2 hours before going to bed as by doing so your stomach will get enough time to digest the food.
- Due to a hectic schedule and fast paced lifestyle, people tend to eat as quickly as possible. To manage GERD, one must eat slowly and put down the spoon or fork in between each bite.
- Changing the daily diet by striking off the trigger foods is beneficial in managing GERD symptoms. Though the food triggers vary from one person to another yet, it includes coffee, chocolate, peppermint, alcohol, tomato, citrus juices, onions, spicy and high- fat foods, etc.
- Sleeping with the head end of the bed elevated by 6 inches is a very effective way of reducing night time reflux. It is also advisable to sleep on your left side . Never sleep on the right side as this position promotes reflux. Medications to reduce acid production are the mainstay of the medical treatment.
- One always has to ensure that they are following the various lifestyle changes along with the medication. Other medications include pro kinetic medicines which help the stomach empty. Surgery always remains the last resort in the treatment of GERD. Endoscopy is required for the diagnosis or GERD Prior to any surgery a Manometry and 24 hr ph merry test is compulsory.
If you are suffering from GERD symptoms frequently, then you may maintain a diary for figuring out which foods are giving you trouble.
When is a surgery required?
If lifestyle changing tips and other medications fail to provide any relief, then physicians recommend undergoing surgery.
- Surgery is done for strengthening lower esophageal sphincter and also for reinforcing it. The surgery for reinforcing lower esophageal sphincter is performed by surgeons laparoscopically. The surgeon inserts instruments like a tiny camera and flexible tube by making 3-4 incisions in the abdomen. This surgery for managing GERD may be quite effective.
- Experts state that candidates who undergo GERD surgery are those who are unwilling to take GERD drugs or are not getting relief from them. While choosing a surgeon, it is better to consider one who possesses huge experience of the particular operation which you need and also with a good track record.
- So, you must visit a doctor if you experience frequent gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms. It won't be a good decision to take OTC medications without your doctor's recommendation if you notice arm or jaw pain along with difficulty in breathing as these are signs of heart attack. In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!