Achalasia is a rare condition that makes it difficult for food and liquids to get out of the swallowing tube that connects your mouth and stomach (esophagus) to your stomach.
Achlasia occurs when the nerves in the esophagus are damaged. As a result, over time, the esophagus becomes paralyzed and dilated, and eventually loses the ability to force food into the stomach. The food then collects in the esophagus, sometimes ferments, and returns to the mouth, which can taste bitter. Some people mistake this for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). However, in achalasia, the food comes from the esophagus, while in GERD, the material comes from the stomach.
There is no cure for achalasia. Once the esophagus is paralyzed, the muscle can no longer function properly. However, symptoms can usually be managed with endoscopy, minimally invasive therapy, or surgery.
Symptoms of achalasia usually come on gradually and have evolved over time. Signs and symptoms can include:
Inability to swallow (dysphagia) which can cause food or drink to get stuck in your throat
Belching of food or saliva
Chest pains that come and go
Cough at night
Pneumonia (caused by sucking food into the lungs)
The exact cause of achalasia is poorly known. Researchers suggest that it may be caused by the loss of nerve cells in the esophagus. There are theories as to what causes this, but viral infections or autoimmune reactions have been suggested. Very rarely, achalasia can be caused by a congenital genetic disease or infection.