Basics

What is Achalasia?

Achalasia is a rare disorder of the esophagus that affects one’s ability to transfer food from the esophagus toward the stomach. It occurs in about 1/10,000 people. In achalasia, most of the esophagus does not propel food effectively and the end of the esophagus does not fully relax. This leads to symptoms of difficulty swallowing, pain, regurgitation of food, and dilation of the esophagus.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

A ring of muscle at the area where the esophagus and stomach meet, known as the lower esophageal sphincter or LES, typically relaxes during swallowing. Individuals with achalasia, the muscle ring does not fully relax, as it should. Damages to the nerves of the esophagus cause this complication. Similar symptoms like those of achalasia can be observed in cancer of the upper stomach or esophagus and with a parasitic infection that causes Chagas disease. Achalasia’s occurrence can be seen at any age, however is most common in those in their 40-50’s.

 Achalasia Barium Study Photo

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