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An unusual condition of unknown cause in which muscles at the lower end of the oesophagus and the sphincter (valve) between the oesophagus and the stomach fail to relax to let food into the stomach after swallowing. The lowest part of the oesophagus is narrowed and becomes blocked with food and the part above widens as a result of this.

Symptoms and signs

Difficulty and pain in swallowing and pain in the lower chest and upper abdomen are all symptoms of achalasia. Bad breath and an unpleasant taste in the mouth may arise due to the regurgitation of food. The ability to swallow slowly deteriorates until the swallowing of liquids is also impeded.

Diagnosis and treatment

A barium swallow (brackets a type of barium X ray examination) and gastroscopy (in which a narrow viewing tube is passed down the oesophagus) can be used to examine achalasia. 

Drug treatment is seldom successful; however there is a possibility to widen the oesophagus for extended periods by oesophageal dilation (passing a rod or a balloon catheter down the oesophagus) surgery to cut muscles at the stomach entrance can be necessary to expand the passageway for food and drink.

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