Different health conditions can present similar symptoms and signs. This is especially
true when dealing with gastroenterological issues. One of the most common stomach
conditions that impact 1 in 5 Americans is
. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease,
also known as
is when stomach acid, partially digested food,
and other stomach contents enter your esophagus, causing a burning sensation and
discomfort. While this is a commonly diagnosed and treated issue, it also presents
similarly to a less common condition called
Achalasia affects only 1 in 100,000 Americans and requires a different treatment
method. If Achalasia goes untreated or inappropriately treated, your symptoms and
damage to your esophagus will continue and may become irreversible.
How Does Achalasia Differ from GERD?
Both conditions are affected by the lower esophageal sphincter. This is the barrier
between your esophagus and your stomach. With acid reflux, this barrier doesn’t close
when it should; for Achalasia, it doesn’t open when it should. This means that when the
lower esophageal sphincter doesn’t open, food gets stuck at the bottom of the
esophagus, creating heartburn.
How Can You Determine if You Have Achalasia Instead of Acid Reflux?
If you feel stomach contents coming back up after you swallow, it’s likely acid
reflux. However, if you have trouble swallowing, or feel like your food is getting stuck in
your esophagus, it may be Achalasia. If that is the case, you need to
. Your gastroenterologist has a few options to test for this
, a barium swallow, and esophageal manometry can all reveal
how your esophagus is working.
What Treatments are Available for Achalasia?
Because the cause of Achalasia is different from the cause of acid reflux, reflux
treatments won’t relieve your symptoms. Depending on your situation, your doctor may
Pneumatic Dilation – This is an outpatient procedure where a balloon is inflated in
your esophagus to open the lower esophageal sphincter. This procedure may need to
be repeated in the future.
Botox® Injection – This is an endoscopic procedure where Botox® is injected to
relax the sphincter muscle, causing it to open. This needs to be repeated annually.
Surgery – One of the most common and trusted treatment methods is a Heller
myotomy. This surgical procedure cuts a hole in the lower esophageal sphincter.
What Treatments are Available for Acid Reflux?
Because acid reflux is such a common condition, there are several common treatments.
Weight loss – Reducing your BMI, even moderately, can reduce the severity and
frequency of acid reflux symptoms.
Changes in Diet – High-fat foods, acidic foods, and caffeine all exacerbate acid
reflux symptoms. Therefore reducing these types of food can, in turn, lower your
chances of having acid reflux.
Quit smoking – Nicotine may relax the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing acid
and other stomach contents back into the esophagus. So reducing, or eliminating
nicotine can help with acid reflux.
If you’re experiencing
, or if these other symptoms persist, you need to
. A gastroenterologist can determine the cause of your
pain and treatment plan specifically for you. Our team of
gastroenterologists in Panama
is here to help, so
schedule an appointment