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What is Achalasia

Saturday, September 28, 2013 @ 12:09 AM
posted by: admin

Esophageal Achalasia or Achalasia is an esophageal motility disorder (health issue involving movement of food through the esophagus) that involves the smooth muscle layer of the esophagus and the lower esophageal sphincter (the ring of the muscle between the lower esophagus and the stomach). The term Achalasia means: "failure to relax". It happens when the smooth muscles fail to move the food down to the esophagus. Achalasia is characterized by difficulty in swallowing, chest pain, and regurgitation. As a result, patients with Achalasia have difficulty in swallowing food. The cause of Achalasia is still unknown, however there are other cases  that attribute to esophageal Achalasia like Chagas' disease, and esophageal cancer. Although there are several treatments for the condition, there is still no proven cure.

How a normal esophagus functions

Your esophagus contains three functional parts: the upper esophageal sphincter, the esophagus, and the lower esophageal sphincter. The upper esophageal sphincter is the ring of muscle that forms at the upper end of the tubular esophagus. It separates the esophagus from the throat. The esophagus is the long, muscular tube. The lower esophageal sphincter is what prevents the food from backing up into the body of the esophagus from the stomach. It's kinda like having a tube of pvc pipe with a valve at each end.

When we swallow a food, the upper sphincter relaxes to allow the food and the saliva to pass from the throat to the esophageal body. The muscle below the upper sphincter contracts; thus squeezing the food further down to the esophagus. The ring-like contraction that goes down to the body of the esophagus is the one responsible for propelling the food down to the stomach. This progression of the muscular contraction in the esophageal body is called peristaltic wave. By the time the food reaches the lower sphincter, the sphincter will open and then it passes the food down to the stomach.

How an esophagus functions when it has Achalasia

When a person has Achalasia, the lower half to two thirds of the muscles don't contract normally and the wave that forces the food down doesn't happen. The lower sphincter fails to relax and open to get the food get into the stomach, too, even if the wave happens. Sometimes the wave happens really fast in high pressure, but that's not effective either. We were made to have this process happen at a particular speed to work right. This all means that the food and saliva doesn't go where it's supposed to go and gets stuck in the tube.

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