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Achalasia is a rare disorder of the esophagus that makes swallowing difficult. This occurs because the nerves of the esophagus do not work. Children suffering from achalasia cannot sufficiently push food down toward the stomach because of a lack of nerves, an enlarged esophagus and the failure of the lower-esophageal muscle to relax and allow food to pass into the stomach. Children with achalasia can have complications like malnutrition, chest pain and respiratory difficulties. It is a progressive disease, which means it can get worse if not treated.
The causes of achalasia are not known.
The symptoms of achalasia can appear in infants, or they can gradually appear in childhood or adulthood. The most common symptoms are:
Achalasia is diagnosed with esophageal manometry. During this test, a thin tube is placed through the nose or mouth into the esophagus to measure the pressure within the esophagus and the lower esophageal sphincter.
Other tests that may be used to diagnose this condition or to decide if an esophageal manometry is required include:
Read more about GI motility testing at Boston Children’s.
Treating achalasia involves relieving the obstruction through either:
Neither of these procedures cures achalasia, but they do provide most patients with long-term relief of their symptoms.
Learn more about our GI motility treatments and approach at Boston Children’s.
For an appointment, more information or to obtain a second opinion for your child, please contact the Motility and Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders Center at 617-355-6055 or request an appointment online.
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”