• Medical Author:
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: Bhupinder Anand, MD

Difficulty Swallowing

Depending upon the cause of the dysphagia) the difficulty swallowing can be mild or severe. Some people may have trouble swallowing both solids and liquids, while others may experience problems only when attempting to swallow solid foods.

Achalasia facts

  • Achalasia is a rare disease of the muscle of the lower esophageal body and the lower esophageal sphincter that prevents relaxation of the sphincter and an absence of contractions, or peristalsis, of the esophagus.
  • The cause of achalasia is unknown; however, there is degeneration of the esophageal muscles and, more importantly, the nerves that control the muscles.
  • Common symptoms of achalasia include
  • Complications of achalasia include lung problems and weight loss.
  • Achalasia may increase the risk of cancer of the esophagus, but this not well established.
  • Achalasia can be diagnosed by X-ray, endoscopy, or esophageal manometry.
  • Treatments for achalasia include
    • oral medications,
    • dilation or stretching of the esophagus,
    • surgery, and
    • injection of muscle-relaxing medicines (botulinum toxin) directly into the esophagus.
  • There is no specific diet to treat achalasia. However, some patients learn what foods seem to pass through the esophagus more easily, and make dietary alterations to include those foods in their diet, for example:
    • drinking liquid foods
    • drinking more water with meals, and
    • drinking carbonated beverages (the carbonation seems to help "push" the food through the esophageal sphincter).
  • If a person with achalasia has weight loss that is substantial; their diet may be supplemented by a liquid diet that is complete (contains all necessary nutrients to prevent malnutrition).

What is the definition of achalasia?

Achalasia can be defined as the lack of the lower esophageal sphincter to relax and the presence of abnormal motility in the remainder of the esophagus.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/16/2016

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