Achalasia is an uncommon condition that results in the backing up of food in the esophagus. Meade Edmunds, MD, and his team at Edmunds Gastroenterology in Knoxville, Tennessee, have considerable expertise in diagnosing achalasia and helping patients to regain normal function. To find out more about achalasia, or discuss any gastroenterological problems you’re concerned about, call the office today to schedule a consultation, or book an appointment online.
Achalasia is a fairly uncommon disease of the esophagus. It’s characterized by a lack of ability of the lower sphincter in the esophagus to relax, thereby causing food to back up in the esophagus. Often patients develop chest pain or a sense of fullness in the chest.
The symptoms of achalasia are quite varied and may range from fullness in the chest area to actual chest pain. Food sitting in the esophagus for a prolonged time may result in marked esophagitis or burning of the linking of the esophagus. Nausea and vomiting may be associated with achalasia.
Achalasia is suggested by radiographic findings of an esophagus that poorly drains on barium study. In its most classic form, it presents with a “bird beak” on barium radiograph. Barium will often be very slow to drain from the esophagus.
The definitive diagnosis is made by manometric study where a catheter is placed through the nose and into the esophagus. During this study, the lower esophageal sphincter would normally relax with swallows of water, but in achalasia it doesn’t relax, and the muscles in the wall of the esophagus do not contract well in its most classic form.
Achalasia is treated through different treatment options. BotoxⓇ can be injected directly into the lower esophageal sphincter, thereby helping it relax and enhancing esophageal drainage of food and fluid.
A balloon dilation can be performed to help relax the lower esophageal sphincter muscle by stretching out the muscle fibers in this area. If these forms of treatment are not successful, surgical options are a possibility as well.
One surgical approach for achalasia is a Heller myotomy. This minimally invasive surgical procedure involves making a cut in the esophageal sphincter muscle. Success rates are high for this procedure, and results are usually permanent.
Occasionally patients who undergo a Heller myotomy for achalasia develop gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in which stomach acid backs up the esophagus. To prevent this, a procedure called a Nissen fundoplication might be carried out at the same time as the Heller myotomy.
If you’ve been having any symptoms of achalasia, call Edmunds Gastroenterology, or use the online booking tool to make an appointment.
This information is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Please consult with your primary care physician or a specialist regarding your symptoms.