What is achalasia?

In general, the term achalasia describes a malfunctioning of those parts of the smooth muscles of hollow organs (e.g. gullet, stomach, intestines) that have a closing function.

What is achalasia of the gullet?

In general, this describes the inability of the lower gullet sphincter (oesophagus sphincter or cardia) to sufficiently open for a lump of food to pass into the stomach. In addition to that the motility (peristalsis) of the entire gullet can be negatively affected.

Causes and consequences of achalasia

- dysphagia

- malfunctioning peristaltic of the gullet

- malfunctioning relaxation reflex of the lower oesophageal sphincter

- malfunction of the upper oesophageal sphincter

Sure facts

At the cardia the nerve cells (neurons and ganglia) in the plexus (myenteric plexus/Auerbach’s plexus) are degenerated. This causes a tension of the lower gullet sphincter.

Swallowing difficulties due to:

  • Impaired mobility (peristalsis) of the oesophagus

  • Impaired swallowing-induced slackening of the lower oesophagus

  • Impaired function of the upper oesophageal sphincter

Why?

For this question, merely hypotheses can be formulated:

  • autoimmune disorder

  • degeneration and decay of cells, tissues and organs

  • inheritance

  • infection (viral)

Symptoms

  • spasmodic pain in the chest

  • difficulties to swallow - with food getting stuck in the gullet

  • regurgitation of undigested food from the gullet

  • digestion problems e.g. bloating

  • weight loss up to 20 kilos

  • malnutrition

  • cough attacks at night due to food reflux