The lower esophageal sphincter consists of a circular band of muscle at the junction of the esophagus and the stomach. In people with achalasia, the transportation of food and liquids is delayed due to problems with relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter muscle. In addition, achalasia can be caused by poor muscle coordination in the esophagus. Due to the increased pressure that develops in the lower esophagus, it gradually becomes dilated. The disorder is most common in young adult years.
Causes of Achalasia
In achalasia, the esophageal pressures are increased. This is the result of food and liquid trying to pass through a lower gastroesophageal sphincter that is not properly relaxed. The esophagus becomes dilated and chronically irritated. Contents stay within the esophagus for a longer period of time than normal. These contents, including some regurgitated food, may lead to chronic irritation of the esophagus.
Signs and Symptoms of Achalasia
Symptoms of achalasia include difficulty swallowing and chest pain. The pain may occur during or shortly after eating. Regurgitation of food during or after meals occurs. It may be worse at night when lying down. As the disorder worsens, decreased intake may lead to weight loss. There is an increased risk of developing esophageal cancer in people who develop achalasia. This occurs in the chronically injured portion of the esophagus.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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