Achalasia Achalasia
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Achalasia is a disorder of the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach (esophagus), which affects the ability of the esophagus to move food toward the stomach

Alternative Names

Esophageal achalasia

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The main problem in achalasia is a failure of the a muscular ring where the esophagus and stomach come together (lower esophageal sphincter) to relax during swallowing.

Another part of the disorder is a lack of nerve stimulation to the muscles of the esophagus. Causes include:

Cancers Damage to the nerves of the esophagus Infection with a parasite Inherited factors

As a result, the wave-like contractions of smooth muscles that normally force food through the esophagus and other parts of the digestive tract do not work as well. (These contractions are called peristalsis.)

Achalasia is a rare disorder. It may occur at any age, but is most common in middle-aged or older adults.


Backflow (regurgitation) of food Chest pain, which may increase after eating or may radiate to the back, neck, and arms Cough Difficulty swallowing liquids and solids Heartburn Unintentional weight loss

Signs and tests

Physical examination may show signs of anemia.

Tests include:

Esophageal manometry Upper GI x-ray


The approach to treatment is to reduce the pressure at the lower esophageal sphincter. Therapy may involve:

Injection with botulinum toxin (Botox). This may help relax the sphincter muscles, but any benefit wears off within a matter of weeks or months. Medications, such as long-acting nitrates or calcium channel blockers, which can be used to lower the pressure at the lower esophagus sphincter Surgery (called an esophagomyotomy), which may be needed to decrease the pressure in the lower sphincter

Your doctor can help you decide which treatment is best for your situation.

Expectations (prognosis)

The outcomes of surgery and nonsurgical treatments are similar. Sometimes more than one treatment is necessary.


Breathing food contents into the lungs, which can cause pneumonia Regurgitation of acid or food from the stomach into the esophagus (reflux) Tearing (perforation) of the esophagus