Achalasia is a primary esophageal motility disorder characterized by the absence of esophageal peristalsis and impaired relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) in response to swallowing. The LES is hypertensive in about 50% of patients. These abnormalities cause a functional obstruction at the gastroesophageal junction (GEJ).
Signs and Symptoms: The main symptoms of achalasia are dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing), regurgitation of undigested food, chest pain behind the sternum, and weight loss. Dysphagia tends to become progressively worse over time and to involve both fluids and solids. The chest pain experienced, also known as cardiospasm and non-cardiac chest pain can often be mistaken for a heart attack.
Disease statistics: Achalasia is an uncommon swallowing disorder that affects about 1 in every 100,000 people. Disease affects mostly adults between ages 30s and 50s. It occurs equally in males and females. It is typically diagnosed in adults, but can occur in children as well.