Achalasia

Alternative Names

Esophageal achalasia

Definition of Achalasia

Achalasia is a disorder of the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach (esophagus), which affects the ability of the esophagus to move food toward the stomach.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

A muscular ring at the point where the esophagus and stomach come together (lower esophageal sphincter) normally relaxes during swallowing. In people with achalasia, this muscle ring does not relax as well. The reason for this problem is damage to the nerves of the esophagus.

Signs and tests

Physical examination may show signs of or malnutrition.

Treatment

The approach to treatment is to reduce the pressure at the lower esophageal sphincter. Therapy may involve:

Expectations (prognosis)

The outcomes of surgery and nonsurgical treatments are similar. Sometimes more than one treatment is necessary.

Review

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 1/20/2010

Digestive system
Upper gastrointestinal system
Achalasia - series

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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