Esophageal achalasia is a medical condition in which the sphincter between the stomach and the esophagus, the tube that directs food to the stomach, doesn’t work. This sphincter is called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Unlike in gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), where the LES opens up when it is not supposed to, the sphincter in esophageal achalasia remains shut even when the person is eating, causing food to back up into the esophagus. There are several causes of esophageal achalasia, and a doctor may have trouble pinpointing the specific cause in a specific patient. In some patients, it is a complication of an autoimmune disease. In other cases, it can happen because of damage to the lower esophageal sphincter, viruses, or damage to nerves in the patient’s esophagus. Get to know the best ways to treat esophageal achalasia now.
Some doctors give patients smooth muscle relaxants, such as calcium channel blockers and long-acting nitrates, to help open their lower esophageal sphincter. Calcium channel blockers interrupt calcium entering the cells, especially those of the heart, arteries, and veins, and are most often used to treat high blood pressure, angina, and arrhythmias. One of the most popular of the calcium channel blockers for esophageal achalasia is nifedipine, which is placed under the tongue and then quickly absorbed into the body. It works within forty-five minutes, so patients typically take it forty-five minutes before they eat or go to bed. Long-acting nitrates are most often used to reduce the number of a patient’s angina attacks. A long-acting nitrate called isosorbide is also placed under the tongue and works even faster than nifedipine, but its effects don’t last as long. Botox is sometimes used as a muscle relaxant to treat esophageal achalasia as well.
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