Your esophagus moves without your knowledge as it helps to push food down the tube that connects to your stomach. In most individuals, these movements are coordinated and work to safely transport food to the stomach. However, some people may develop spasms of the esophagus, which can cause a number of problems including the inability to safely pass food to your stomach. Today, we take a closer look at the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of esophageal spasms.
Causes and Symptoms of Esophageal Spasms
Esophageal spasms are characterized by irregular, uncoordinated and at times, powerful contractions of the esophagus. Oftentimes, esophageal spasms are actually symptoms of another endocrine system issue, like GERD or achalasia. But what causes the condition to develop?
Unfortunately, we’re still in the dark as to the exact cause of esophageal spasms, although some medical experts believe it is triggered by a disruption of the nerve activity that coordinated the swallowing action in your esophagus. Others suggest that hot, cold or spicy foods may trigger a round of spasms.
Symptoms of esophageal spasms include:
- Chest pain
- Pain that spreads to the arm, back, neck or jaw
- Difficulty swallowing food
Diagnosing and Treating Esophageal Spasms
If you are experiencing some of the above symptoms, set up a consultation with an esophageal specialist. The diagnosis phase begins by a review of your medical history and a review of your symptoms. If spasms are suspected, your doctor may confirm the diagnosis with tests like an esophageal manometry (small tube inserted down the esophagus) or a barium swallow (involves an x-ray). This will reveal if you’re dealing with spasms or another related condition.
If you’ve been diagnosed with esophageal spasms, your doctor will walk you through your treatment options. Some of the common treatment methods include changing your diet, taking medications to relax the esophagus, a dilation procedure that works to expand narrow areas of your esophageal canal, and surgery. Surgery is generally only needed if your spasms are a symptom of a more serious condition like GERD or achalasia.
For more information about your options, or to talk to a doctor about any esophagus problems you’ve been having, reach out to Dr. Koeplin today.