Are you lately finding it difficult to swallow food and liquids? Are you suffering from chest pain and a loss of body weight? Make sure that Achalasia is not the underlying condition. Read on and know what is Achalasia as well as its causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.
Achalasia is a condition marked by improper functioning of the Esophagus or the tubular structure carrying food to the stomach from the mouth. It is also known as Esophagial Achalasia, Esophageal Aperistalsis, Cardiospasm and Achalasia Cardiae.
It has been marked as a rare disease by the ORD (Office of Rare Diseases) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It affects less than 200,000 people in the U.S but is regarded as a highly discomforting condition.
Achalasia pronounciation = “Ak-ay-laa-zhi-aa”.
Some of the major signs and symptoms of Achalasia disease are
The stomach acid and digested food flows back into the Esophagus causing great physical discomfort in the patient.
People affected with Achalasia often vomit the food that they eat due to defective performance of the Esophagus.
Achalasia patients suffer from a burning sesation in their chest due to change in level of stomach acids.
Heartburn is also accompanied with chest pain in some cases.
Achalasia sufferers also often cough, especially while eating foods. This happens because the esophagus muscle fails to relax.
Affected people also have great difficulty in swallowing food and water which leads to unintentional loss of body weight. In patients of Achalasia weight loss is quite common.
Causes of Achalasia
Doctors and medical researchers have pinpointed several causes of Achalasia. The primary reason for Achalasia is the failure of the sphincter muscle of Esophagus to relax properly. The sphincter is a muscular ring situated at the junction of the stomach and the Esophagus. In healthy individuals, this ring relaxes during swallowing which lets food and water pass into the stomach. It remains contracted at other times which prevent backflow of digested food and stomach acid into the Esophagus.
Some of the other main Achalasia causes are various types of cancer, trauma to esophageal nerves and parasitic infection.
Is Achalasia Hereditary?
Genetic reasons are also held responsible for this disease. Some genes are supposed to raise the susceptibility of a patient to this condition.
The diagnosis of Achalasia involves use of tests like Esophageal Manometry and Barium Swallow. An Endoscopy may be performed to examine the internal tissues of the Esophagus. Endoscopy of the duodenum, stomach and esophagus, either used in conjunction with Endoscopic Ultrasound or without it, may help rule out the possibility of cancerous conditions.
Differential Diagnosis of Achalasia
The differential diagnosis of Achalasia involves distinguishing the condition from other disorders that produce similar symptoms such as Hiatus Hernia, Psychosomatic disorders and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease.
The main aim of Achalasia treatment is to relax the Esophageal sphincter muscle which makes swallowing much easier. Treatment of Achalasia involves both medications as well as surgery. Both treatment options are effective in treating the condition though surgery is found to be a more permanent cure.
Medical Treatment for Achalasia
Achalasia medicines include Botulinum Toxin (Botox) and Calcium Channel Blockers. Calcium Channel Blockers are seen as an effective Achalasia medication due to their ability in reducing muscular contractions. Injecting Botox into the sphincter is also found to be effective. It paralyzes the sphincter muscle and prevents strong contractions.
However, these medications do not provide permanent relief from Achalasia symptoms. Calcium Channel Blockers are usually effective only temporarily as people develop resistance to these drugs after a few months. Botox has fewer side effects but need to be administered repeatedly after every six months. It can also lead to scarring of muscles. This can give rise to complications if surgery is carried out sometime in future.
Achalasia surgery is also known as Esophagomytomy or Heller’s Myotomy and is considered to be a permanent way of treating the condition. The purpose of this operation is to reduce the pressure in the lower sphincter muscle. The process involves making a cut on the sphincter muscle to let it relax and make normal swallowing possible once again. Achalasia surgery is carried out only on people who do not recover with short-term medications. They must also be in good health as the operation puts much stress on the body.
Achalasia Natural Remedies
Natural remedies are insufficient in treating Achalasia but they can provide temporary relief from the symptoms caused by this disorder. Some of the effective natural remedies for Achalasia include
This herb increases the alkalinity of the body and reduces stomach acidity. This helps patients get relief from heartburn. Consumption of Barley Grass can be good for Achalasia remedy.
This resin is made from the tree known as Pistacia Lentiscus and is used for treating several digestive ailments. It is effective in treating ulcers, acid reflux and heartburn.
This substance is available in many homes and is trusted as a great way of treating acid reflux naturally. If you are suffering from acid flow-back, Pickle Juice can help provide relief from the symptoms temporarily.
The prognosis of Achalasia is usually good in case of both surgical and non-surgical treatment. However, medical treatment of the disease is not long-lasting. Surgical treatment is found to provide long term relief from Achalasia symptoms. In some cases, more than one treatment is needed to cure the condition.
Unless treated in time, Achalasia can give rise to a number of complications such as backflow of food and acid into the Esophagus from the stomach. If food contents enter into the lungs, pneumonia may occur. In worse cases, the Esophagus may suffer a tear.
Effective treatment can assure Achalasia recovery. If you or anyone in your family is suffering from difficulties in swallowing, do not delay. Get a test done immediately and start treatment if Achalasia is diagnosed. Timely treatment helps evade a lot of future complications and helps guarantee the safety of health.