The esophagus is the swallowing tube that connects the larynx to the stomach. Achalasia is a disease that affects the esophagus; Due to the defect in the relaxation of the valve formed by the muscles called the lower esophageal sphincter on the stomach side of the esophagus, solid and liquid foods cannot easily pass into the stomach, and therefore, difficulty in swallowing is experienced.
Achalasia is caused by the deterioration or loss of nerve cells in the esophagus that control the muscles involved in swallowing food.
Although there is no method that will create a full recovery in achalasia, the quality of life can be increased by controlling the symptoms with treatment.
Achalasia can develop at any age, but is most common between the ages of 30 and 60. Its incidence is equal in men and women. Although the cause has not been determined yet, studies show that genetic factors, some diseases that the body targets itself (autoimmune diseases) and some infections play a role in the formation of the disease.
Achalasia is a disease whose symptoms develop gradually. During the disease process, complaints such as:
- Difficulty swallowing solid and liquid foods
- Food coming back into the mouth
- Chest pain or burning sensation
- post-meal cough
- Weight loss
After listening to your medical history and performing a physical examination, your physician may refer to some tests to support the diagnosis of achalasia, such as:
It is a direct examination of the esophagus and the valve that opens into your abdomen with the help of a flexible device with a camera tip.
Esophagogram (Barium esophagus graphy)
This is the visualization of movements of the esophagus as you swallow a thick contrast agent called barium.
It is a simple pressure measuring tube. It helps to measure the amount of pressure exerted by the esophagus on liquid or solid food. The manometry is sent to the esophagus and then to the stomach. This test can show the pressure increase in the contractions of the involved muscles.
Today, the treatment of achalasia does not provide a complete recovery from the disease, but helps to alleviate the symptoms and increase the quality of life of the patient.
It prevents complications that may occur in the stomach and esophagus valve. The following methods are used in the treatment of achalasia.
Pneumatic dilatation: A balloon is sent into the esophagus by the physician through an endoscope, passed through the valve between the esophagus and stomach, and then inflated.
Botox injection: Botox is a drug that inhibits muscle contraction. Botox can be injected into the muscles of this valve to relax the valve opening where the esophagus and stomach meet. This procedure can also be done during endoscopy.
The effect of Botox usually lasts between 3 months and a year, so the procedure may need to be repeated when the drug loses its effect.
Surgery to widen and loosen the valve between the stomach and esophagus is called myotomy. In myotomy, some of the muscles of this flap are cut. These types of surgical procedures usually provide long-term relief from achalasia symptoms.