Bhupinder Anand, MD
In this Article
What are the symptoms of achalasia?
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The most common symptom of achalasia is difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia). Patients typically describe food sticking in the chest after it is swallowed. Dysphagia occurs with both solid and liquid food. Moreover, the dysphagia is consistent, meaning that it occurs during virtually every meal.
Sometimes, patients will describe a heavy sensation in their chest after eating that may force them to stop eating. Occasionally, pain may be severe and mimic heart pain (angina). The cause of this discomfort is felt to be the accumulation of ingested food within the esophagus.
Regurgitation of food that is trapped in the esophagus can occur, especially when the esophagus is dilated. If the regurgitation happens at night while the patient is sleeping, food can enter the throat and cause coughing and choking. If the food enters the trachea (windpipe) and lung, it can lead to infection (aspiration pneumonia).
Because of the problem with swallowing food, a large proportion of patients with achalasia lose weight. Episodes of chest pain may also occur especially with vigorous achalasia. Sometimes symptoms suggest gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD); however, it's not clear if the symptoms are, in fact, due to reflux. Moreover, acid suppression rarely improves the symptoms of achalasia.
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