What is Achalasia?

Achalasia is a rare and chronic disorder of the esophagus. It is a disorder of the neurological origin which affects the muscle and the nerves controlling the motor functions of the esophagus. Achalasia makes the muscle of the esophagus unable to move the food and liquids down towards the stomach, resulting in the food accumulating in the esophagus. The exact cause of Achalasia is currently unknown, however, some believe that it may result from a virus or an autoimmune disorder.

Signs and Symptoms of Achalasia

  • Difficulty in swallowing- Food may be stuck in throat or chest and the feeling that the food is not going down vigorously
  • Regurgitation- Food and liquids may be coming back up in the form of vomiting
  • Weight loss- Due to the food not getting digested properly
  • Chest pain- sometimes person may experience chest pain due to the food being stuck in the esophagus

Diagnosis of Achalasia

To diagnose Achalasia, the doctor will first conduct a physical exam to check for signs or symptoms of Achalasia. She/he may then refer you for other tests, such as an X-ray, a barium swallow or an endoscopy. An endoscopy is an exam through which the doctor can check the inside of the esophagus for any abnormalities. During this test, the doctor will also use special instruments to measure the muscle movements and the strength of the esophagus.

Treatment of Achalasia

Achalasia is a chronic condition and there is no permanent cure for it. However, there are various medical and surgical options available which can control the symptoms.

  • Medications- Medications such as calcium channel blockers, nitrates and acetylcholinesterase inhibitors are used to relax the muscles of the esophagus.
  • Surgery- Other than medications, there are various surgical interventions which can be used to treat Achalasia such as Laparoscopic myotomy, Pneumatic dilation, Botulinum toxin injection etc.

Prevention of Achalasia

As the exact cause of Achalasia is unknown, there is no exact way through which one can prevent it. However, one should maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and getting adequate rest will help in preventing many chronic diseases.