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Achalasia is a rare, swallowing disorder. The condition is not curable, but symptoms are controllable. It worsens if it is not treated. Your choice of treatment will depend on your age, preference and general health. Achalasia is the result of abnormal nerve cells in the lower two-thirds of the esophagus. This causes two problems. The muscles lining the tube don’t contract in a normal way.





Normally smooth muscle contractions move food through the tube. The second is that the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) doesn’t work properly. It stays tight and creates a barrier that stops food or liquids from going into the stomach. Usually the LES muscle relaxes when we swallow. It contracts once food passes into the stomach. Also, it prevents food from flowing back into the esophagus.

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Difficulty swallowing

The most common symptom of the condition is difficulty swallowing. Sufferers have the sensation that food and liquid are stuck in the chest. The problem may not be too bad at first and often progresses slowly. People may try to compensate by eating slowly. They may try to lift their necks or throw back their shoulders to get food to go down. Surgery may be necessary if the problem gets worse. Surgery to treat this condition usually involves cutting muscles at the end of the esophagus. The surgeon inserts telescopic equipment through a tiny incision in the abdomen. It has a high success rate. Most people experience symptom relief for up to 20 years after surgery.

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Chest pain

If solid food lodges in the chest, it can cause severe discomfort. This feeling of fullness under the breastbone is common after meals. If chest pain is severe and none of the other symptoms are present, it is important to see your doctor.

It relieves chest pain that comes with achalasia. It may come with using certain oral medication. You can use other more drastic methods if achalasia is the underlying condition.

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Regurgitation

Regurgitation or vomiting up of undigested food is another symptom. Balloon dilation is widely accepted as the most effective non-surgical treatment. It works for approximately two-thirds of people with achalasia. A doctor puts an endoscope into your stomach. You swallow a collapsed balloon, and he uses an x-ray machine. It guides the balloon into the right position in the LES. He then inflates the balloon to stretch the muscle fibers. This allows food to pass through to the stomach. Patients often need more than one dilation treatment for adequate relief. Complications may occur at this stage such as a tear in the esophagus.

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Heartburn

Another symptom of this condition is heartburn. If you take normal heartburn medication, it will not help if you have achalasia. You will need to take medication that relaxes the LES muscle. One must take medication if he or she is not healthy enough for other treatments. These are such as balloon dilation, Botox or surgery.

Calcium channel blockers and nitrates relax the LES muscle. This therapy usually consists of placing a pill under your tongue. You should do it half an hour before eating a meal. Drug therapy often has unpleasant side effects. These are such as headaches or low blood pressure. Drugs also usually become less effective.

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Difficulty burping

A little burping is completely normal. Excessive belching is often a sign of acid reflux. If you want to figure out why you are burping so much, you have to consider your other symptoms. Exposing your esophagus to chronic acid consistently is not a good idea. It can cause pre-cancerous changes. You will need to find out if your burping is due to achalasia, On diagnosis, you can decide on a course of action. If symptoms are mild, medication is the least invasive option.

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Hiccups

Hiccups are the result of a large meal, drinking carbonated or alcoholic beverages. Going through emotional stress is one of its underlying causes. In most cases, they disappear on their own. In some cases, they do state an underlying health problem.

Some home remedies can help to relieve hiccups. You can do so by holding your breath, gargling with ice water, sipping cold water or breathing into a paper bag. Eating smaller meals may help too.

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A sensation of fullness

When you feel full, it might be because you overate. If you feel full when you have hardly eaten, it could indicate a problem. Many digestive conditions could give you this feeling. If you are not eating much and you feel full, there is little you can do about it. If you experience this feeling together with other symptoms like difficulty swallowing, it could be due to achalasia. Your doctor will do tests to reach a diagnosis and recommend treatments.

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Difficulty swallowing liquids (late in the illness)

Many conditions can cause difficulties with swallowing. Some people may not be able to swallow liquids. Others may have problems swallowing solids. Once again, it’s a combination of symptoms that matters. One of the treatments recommended for achalasia is Botox injections. This is because the injection paralyzes the nerves in the LES, so they don’t contract.

During an endoscopy, the physician injects the toxin into the LES muscle. A single session relieves the symptoms of most people for a short term. This is a good option for older patients. Even those who are suffering from serious medical conditions may not be able to tolerate balloon dilation or surgery. The disadvantage is that Botox is expensive and its effects do not last long.

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Weight loss (late in the illness)

An inability to swallow often results in weight loss. Some patients discover what foods can pass through more easily and tend to eat more liquid foods. Drinking carbonated beverages seems to help food to go through the esophageal sphincter. Supplementing a patient’s diet may be necessary when weight loss is substantial. A liquid diet may contain all the nutrients needed to prevent malnutrition.

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Aspiration of gastric fluid

Food may get into your lungs if you regurgitate while lying down at night. The acid reflux ends up in the windpipe and goes into the lungs. This can cause choking, wheezing, coughing and other lung conditions.

Keeping the head of the bed elevated can help to prevent this from happening. The gravity will help prevent gastric fluid from going where it doesn’t belong. If aspiration of gastric fluid occurs, it is a serious problem. It requires medical attention.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.