Achalasia: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 4/14/2021

Achalasia is rare disease of the muscle of the lower esophagus (food tube) that prevents relaxation of the esophageal sphincter (the ring of muscle between the end of the esophagus and the opening to the stomach) and reduces contractions, or peristalsis, of the esophagus.

Signs and symptoms of achalasia include

  • trouble swallowing food (dysphagia),
  • food or liquid flowing back up into the throat (regurgitation), and
  • waking up at night coughing or choking due to regurgitation.

Other associated symptoms can include

Cause of achalasia

While there is degeneration of the muscles and nerves of the esophagus in achalasia, the exact cause of the condition is unknown.

Other achalasia symptoms and signs

  • Chest Pain or Pressure
  • Food or Liquid Flowing Back Up into the Throat (Regurgitation)
  • Heartburn
  • Hiccups
  • Trouble Burping
  • Trouble Swallowing Food (Dysphagia)
  • Waking Up at Night Coughing or Choking Due to Regurgitation
  • Weight Loss Due to Reduced Intake of Food


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Jameson, J. Larry, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 20th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2018.