When your esophagus is functioning normally, contractions transition food that you have swallowed down to the stomach. These coordinated contractions are part of a healthy digestive process. (Just to provide a quick medical refresher, the esophagus is a tube that joins the stomach and mouth.)
In the case of esophageal spasms these esophagus contractions are not regular or coordinated instead they are highly uncoordinated and irregular, frequently powerful.
This condition is oftentimes referred to as diffuse esophageal spasms (DES). The outcome is that the spasms have the ability to prevent what you have eaten from reaching your stomach as food becomes trapped in the esophagus.
This disorder is relatively uncommon. Many times, it occurs as a consequence of another condition, for instants gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or achalasia. In the case of achalasia, individuals are suffering from nervous system difficulties that compromise the functionality of the esophagus and lower esophageal sphincter muscles.
Unfortunately, there is no known cause for the spasms. It is hypothesized by medical professionals that it is a likely result of a breakdown of communication and nerve activity responsible for the esophagus’ swallowing behavior. In some cases, spasm episodes can be activated by consuming very hot or cold foods.
Frequently people that suffer from this disorder experience chest pain that can migrate to the neck, back and even the arms. These symptoms resemble the experience of a heart attack, which can make this an especially terrifying experience. It’s always best if you experience chest pains to be examined by a medical professional to rule out the potential of a cardiac disease.
Some other symptoms that typify this condition is the difficulty and inability to swallow your food or drink, swallowing pain, and a sensation of food being caught in the center of the chest, as well as heartburn.
In most cases the spasms are treated by minimizing other disorders that may be causing or aggravating them. Gastroesophageal reflux disease can be managed by modifications of lifestyle and diet in order to decrease the levels of stomach acids.
Some other treatments that can be effective for managing esophageal spasms are:
Medical professionals usually determine if you meet diagnostic criteria for this disorder by conducting a medical history and asking you a series of questions about foods that trigger the spasms. As well, physicians will typically run some diagnostic tests, for instance, an esophageal manometry, which uses small tubes called transducers to measure pressure. As well something called a barium swallow is often used. This is conducted by x-ray.
If you suffer from esophageal spasms you will probably need to make some lifestyle changes in order to avoid triggering or aggravating the condition.
These spasms can certainly be frightening, but an integrative approach that combines your physicians’ recommendations with common sense lifestyle changes is likely to help you manage and treat this difficult condition.