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Achalasia is a rare disorder — only about 2,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with it each year. Because the condition is so rare, it’s helpful to choose a medical center with experience diagnosing and treating this disorder and other esophageal conditions. With comprehensive services and experts focused specifically on problems of the esophagus, the University of Chicago Medicine Center for Esophageal Diseases is uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat achalasia.
Achalasia is an esophageal disorder that makes it difficult to swallow solids and liquids. About 70 percent of patients with achalasia also experience regurgitation (backflow) of food.
Heartburn and chest pain also may be present with achalasia. Although it can develop in children and adults, this condition occurs most often in middle-age adults or older adults. Achalasia occurs when the esophageal sphincter muscle (located between the esophagus and the stomach) doesn’t relax as much as it should, making it hard for food to pass from the esophagus into the stomach. The cause of this disease is not known.
Achalasia is one of several types of esophageal motility disorders. The most common symptom of achalasia is difficulty swallowing. This problem may last months or even years before a person seeks help. Other symptoms can include:
Proper diagnosis is the first step toward appropriate and effective treatment. Physicians at UChicago Medicine may recommend several tests to determine the exact nature of the problem and to rule out the presence of esophageal cancer. Diagnostic testing may include:
UChicago Medicine offers several treatment options for achalasia, including:
Oral medications are not effective for treating achalasia.
Our goal is to offer patients the most advanced treatment options available. Our team is involved in esophageal disease research and clinical trials to continue offering patients the best care. All patients are checked regularly to assess long-term results. We maintain data on patients’ progress in a database. By tracking patients’ results over the long term, we can perform studies on clinical outcomes to verify the effectiveness and durability of interventions. Results are reported regularly in scientific journals so that the medical community and patients can be aware of the alternatives, benefits and risks of each procedure.
Eating and drinking became increasingly difficult for Dorian Brantley. Gastroenterologists diagnosed achalasia — a rare digestive disorder that affects the muscles between the esophagus and the stomach. Irving Waxman, MD, performed an incisionless procedure to correct the problem. Now, Brantley is back to enjoying all her favorite foods again.Read Dorian's Story
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