Swallowing Difficulties

Food may not pass through the oesophagus properly, becoming blocked in several conditions. Achalasia and oesophageal spasm disorders occur. Ineffective oesophageal peristalsis (IEM) is common. Diagnosis occurs in our laboratory and various treatments can be offered (myotomy, dilatation, medication).

Swallowing difficulties may have a number of different underlying causes including:

Achalasia

The oesophagus loses contractility and the lower valve does not open properly. It commonly causes chest pain and regurgitation of old food (not vomit) often containing slime, and there can be a sensation of food jamming. Surgery is available to relieve these symptoms.

corkscrew oesophagus

A Barium Swallow XRay showing a “corkscrew oesophagus” caused by oesophageal spasm. Note the wobbly shape of the oesophagus in the centre of the image.

Oesophageal Spasm

This condition often causes unusual chest pain, food jamming, or regurgitation. It is rare and can be confused with Achalasia. We can perform tests in our laboratory to differentiate it.

Other motility problems

A number of other problems can also affect the “motility” of your oesophagus, your oesophagus’s ability to carry food to the stomach:

  • Ineffective oesophageal motility
  • Subtypes of achalasia
  • Presby oesophagus
  • Segmental spasm
  • Immotility
  • Scleroderma

Oesophageal Diverticulum

An oesophageal diverticulum is a small pouch that can develop in the oesophagus. It is a condition which occurs in several sites in the oesophagus and can cause significant symptoms. We can usually see them using a Barium meal XRay, and can usually perform surgery. We treat all kinds of oesophageal diverticula: Zenkers, cricopharyngeal pouch and epiphrenic.

The diverticulum causes a “squeeze” in the oesophagus which usually requires surgery to release the pressure, and removing the diverticulum usually helps the symptoms.

diverticulum 2 diverticulum 1

Barium Meal XRays of oesophageal diverticula.

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