Esophageal Spasm is an extremely discomforting condition that affects one out of every 1000 people in the United States. Read on to know all about this disease as well as its causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.
What is Esophageal Spasm?
These are painful, unusual muscular contractions within the Esophagus or the tubular structure that transports food from the pharynx to the stomach.
The condition affects women more frequently than men.
Esophageal Spasm Symptoms
The spasms in the Esophagus have a negative impact on the health of the sufferer. Esophageal contractions affect effective movement of foods to the stomach. It also results in pain and discomfort while swallowing. Affected individuals also suffer from pain in the upper abdominal area and the chest.
Some other symptoms of Esophageal Spasm are
- Mild or acute pain beneath the breast bone
- Involuntary backflow (regurgitation) of food
- Spreading of pain to the arm and the jaw
Most spasms are temporary and spontaneous. However, some individuals may experience Esophageal contractions that occur frequently or are chronic by nature. The spasms can severely impact the ability to drink and eat comfortably in affected individuals.
Esophageal Spasm Causes
Medical researchers are still in the dark regarding the exact cause of muscular contractions in the esophagus. In some people, it is believed to arise when very cold or hot drinks are consumed and come into contact with the Esophageal muscles located in the throat. However, hot and cold drinks are regarded more as triggers than causative factors.
Several physical conditions are believed to be the causes of esophageal contraction. Mild cases of this condition are more likely to arise when a person suffers from severe stress or heartburn. Individuals suffering from chronic cases of this condition are also seen to be sufferers of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). GERD is a highly discomforting stomach condition that results in frequent chest pains, backflow of food and heartburn. Medical researchers also have evidence that suggests that some cases of this condition are associated to nervous problems arising in the throat or close to it.
Esophageal Spasm Diagnosis
The diagnosis of this condition is generally done by an experienced doctor who asks the sufferer about the symptoms and carries out a complete physical examination to identify the reason behind the contractions. If the patient suffers from chronic cases of spasms as well as heartburn, additional tests such as endoscopies and x-rays may be required. Other diagnostic tests may include Esophagogram (barium swallow x-ray), Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) and Esophageal Manometry.
Esophageal Spasm Treatment
Individuals suffering from a single Esophageal contraction possibly require no medical treatment unless he or she experiences pain and difficulties in swallowing and the problems continue for over several minutes. Medical treatment can become necessary if problems in the Esophagus become more frequent.
Treatment of this condition comprises of medications as well as lifestyle modifications. Patients suffering from acute Esophageal Spasm may be administered Nitroglycerin that is to be kept under the tongue. This condition may also e cured with the aid of Calcium Channel Blockers and long-acting Nitroglycerin. In rare cases, severe Esophageal Spasm is treated with surgical operation and Esophagal Dilation (Widening). However, the effectiveness of these procedures is not clear.
Chronic or long-term cases of this condition can be treated with the aid of low doses of antidepressants like Nortriptyline and Trazodone. These medicines can help in reducing the symptoms.
Esophageal Spasm Natural Treatment
In patients of Esophageal Spasm natural remedies include lifestyle modifications. This involves
Avoiding extreme temperatures
Avoid eating food items and drinking water or beverages that are too hot or too cold. As aforesaid, extreme temperatures can be a trigger factor for this disease. It is also necessary to avoid spicy dishes as they can be too hot for the body. You should also avoid cold ice cream if you are suffering from this disorder. Even after you have recovered, these foods and drinks can act as trigger factors and make the condition recur in future.
Regular exercise can keep metabolic functions healthy and reduce acid formation in the body. It can also prevent development of spasms in the Esophagus as well as recurrence of the condition in sufferers.
Over-The-Counter Acid Reducers
Over-the-counter medications can help reduce acid formation in sufferers and prevent development of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Individuals suffering from GERD and Chronic Esophageal Contractions might be prescribed drugs that they must have on a daily basis.
In very acute cases, a surgical operation may be needed to relax and even remove Esophageal muscles. This may be the best option for treatment.
Diffuse Esophageal Spasm Treatment
Diffuse Esophageal Spasm (DES) is a disease in which unorganized Esophageal contractions may occur. It is supposed to arise from Esophageal motility disorders. It can result in chest pain, Dysphagia, backflow of food and impaired transportation of food materials to the stomach.
Manometry is regarded as the best method in diagnosing Diffuse Esophageal Spasm in patients. The condition can be treated by using muscle-relaxants, Peppermint oil and Botulinum toxin. During upper GI endoscopy, Botulinum Toxin may be injected into the muscle to relax the nerves that lead to muscular contraction. Botulinum Toxin is actually a poisonous bacterial product that leads to Botulism (Food Poisoning) in healthy human beings.
In some cases, surgery is required to snip the muscles located along the lower section of the Esophagus. This procedure is generally performed only in acute cases that fail to show any improvement as a response to therapy.
Lower Esophageal Sphincter Spasm
In some patients, spasms can arise in the lower part of the Esophageal Sphincter. It can result in symptoms similar to Dysphagia. The affected person can suffer from difficulties in swallowing. This can be cured with the aid of Localized Myotomy.
Occasionally, there may spasms in the Upper Esophageal Sphincter. This can lead to regurgitation (backflow) of acid into the Esophagus as well as the voice box and the throat. This can be cured with the aid of over the counter medications, Proton Pump Inhibitors, Histamine Receptor Antagonists as well as dietary and lifestyle modifications.
Esophageal Spasm and Heart Attack
In some cases, this condition may appear similar to heart attack. This condition produces an acute pain in the chest that makes sufferers believe as if they have a heart attack. People suffering from Hiatal Hernia can also suffer from this disorder.
Nutcracker Esophageal Spasm
This is a type of muscular contraction that presses the Esophagus in an interconnected manner. This compression is highly intense and leads to severe pain while food particles move through the Esophagus.
Esophageal Spasm is a completely curable condition that resolves with proper treatment and aftercare. However, it may come and go and even become chronic in some cases. It is necessary to cure it in time to recover from it earlier and get rid of its discomforting symptoms faster.
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