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
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