Achalasia

Overview

Achalasia is a rare disease of the muscle of the esophagus. The term achalasia means "failure to relax" and refers to the inability of the lower esophageal sphincter to open and let food/liquids pass into the stomach. As a result, patients with achalasia experience progressive dysphagia (difficulty swallowing).

Symptoms of Achalasia

Experts do not know what causes achalasia. At first, an individual may experience only minor dysphagia (difficulty swallowing). However, over time, swallowing of foods and liquids becomes increasingly more difficult, as the disorder progresses.

In fact, dysphagia is commonly the main symptom of achalasia, with as many as 90% of patients experiencing difficulty swallowing both solids and liquids. Other symptoms of achalasia may include:

  • Regurgitation of indigested food (as condition worsen, liquids as well)
  • Discomfort or pain in the chest, especially after meals
  • Coughing, especially when lying down
  • Heartburn/ GERD
  • Weight loss (as the disorder progresses)
  • Aspiration of food, liquid and/or saliva, which can lead to pneumonia and other respiratory infections.

Because the symptoms of achalasia are similar to many others types of dysphagia, accurate evaluation is critical to ensure proper treatment. That’s why it’s important to seek care from a healthcare expert experienced in the complex diagnosis and treatment of swallowing disorders and other gastroesophageal conditions.