Esophageal spasm

Alternative Names

Diffuse esophageal spasm; Spasm of the esophagus

Definition of Esophageal spasm

Esophageal spasms are abnormal contractions of the muscles in the esophagus (the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach). These spasms do not move food effectively to the stomach.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The cause of esophageal spasm is unknown. Very hot or very cold foods may trigger an episode in some people.

Treatment

Nitroglycerin given under the tongue (sublingual) may be effective in an acute episode of esophageal spasm. Long-acting nitroglycerin and calcium channel blockers are also used to treat esophageal spasms.

Expectations (prognosis)

An esophageal spasm may come and go (intermittent) or last for a long time (chronic). Medicine can help relieve symptoms.

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. – 11/11/2010

Digestive system
Throat anatomy

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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