Everything to know about Esophageal Achalasia: Introduction to Achalasia

Yesterday I went to see my GI specialist about my condition; Achalasia.  This would be the second visit.  The first visit was approximately a year ago, although I seem to have had symptoms for a little over two years.

I’ve done about a years worth of internet reading about Achalasia, as well as had firsthand experience.  This post will be a summary of my knowledge and experience, and I hope this will help others who suffer from this affliction.

This will be the first part of a series.

What is Achalasia?

Esophageal Achalasia (aka Achalasia cardia) is a degenerative nerve disease which causes loss of the involuntary esophageal movement when swallowing (this is called parastalsis) and increased pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).

My Personal Experience

From my experience, this result primary symptoms such as: difficulty while swallowing, regurgitation, chest pains, waking up choking on saliva in the middle of the night, unintentional weight loss, and spitting up large amounts of saliva.  This is a relatively rare disease, affecting 1 in 100000 people.

One of the secondary symtoms I’ve encountered is an  inflamed esophagus (esophagitis) due to excess stress which made regurgitation much more frequent.  I believe the freqent regurgitation also caused some reflux problems, and this caused stomach acid to irritate my esophagus.  Symptoms of esophagitis included  nausea, vomiting, a burning sensation in the esophagus.  The nausea was so bad that I couldn’t keep any solids or liquids down, and my body weight dropped from 140lbs to 124 in two weeks.

I first noticed symptoms about two years ago while I on my PEY internship.  I woke up one day with a burning in my chest which hurt so much that I thought I was going to die.  I later found out that it was just heartburn and I could have taken an antiacid for that.  Afterwards I would get heartburn whenever I was walking around the shop.

Over the next year I started developing problems when swallowing.  I used to eat extremely quickly, but things started to get stuck while eating.  I’ve developed techniques like eating with a straight back, or drinking warm or carbonated liquids to push the food down.  I’ve managed to eat normally without losing any weight.  The biggest difference is that I’ve gone from eating a meal in 10 minutes to about an hour, and I need to drink somewhere between 4-8 cups of  water with each meal.

Chugging a cup of water at the end of every meal is extremely important because it washes whatever is left down to the stomach.  I’ve had times where I’ve spit up breakfast food during the evening.  Also, I find that if there is solid blockage, salivia will accumulate on top of it, cause discomfort and I will have to spit it out.