How the Esophagus Works
The esophagus is a long, thin, hollow tube that contracts to push food and liquids down from the throat to the stomach. (This contraction is called peristalsis.) At the end of the esophagus, where it meets the stomach, a ring of muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter opens and closes to allow food and liquid to pass and to minimize reflux from the stomach into the esophagus. Achalasia is a “motility disorder” because the nerves and muscles in the GI tract, which control the esophagus and lower esophageal sphincter, are not working together correctly.
Causes of Achalasia
in most cases, achalasia has no known cause and isn’t associated with a condition that puts people at increased risk. It appears to occur equally in young and old people, men and women, and people of all races.
Symptoms of Achalasia
Symptoms of achalasia may include trouble swallowing that gets more difficult over time, the feeling of food stuck in the throat, and aspiration (accidentally inhaling food into your airway which causes you to choke and cough). Other symptoms can include chest pain/heartburn, regurgitation, and weight loss.
Achalasia Symptoms Can Be Confused with Other Conditions
Because achalasia symptoms can overlap with other esophageal problems, it’s important that a gastroenterologist who specializes in esophageal diseases evaluate your condition. Doctors who are less familiar with achalasia may misdiagnose it as acid reflux, and that can delay effective treatment. It’s important that achalasia is caught and treated early to prevent the esophagus from becoming very dilated and damaged.