What is esophageal spasm?
The esophagus is the tube which connects the mouth and the stomach. When the esophagus contracts, it moves the food from the mouth to the stomach through a regular pattern and a coordinated rhythm.
The term esophageal spasm means that the contractions of the esophagus are irregular and not coordinated and very powerful as well. This condition is also called as diffuse esophageal spasm or DES.
When these conditions occur, it means that the spasms might stop the flow of food from the mouth to the stomach. When this happens, the food gets stuck in the esophagus.
Mostly the food passes very smoothly from the esophagus and it is very strong. This is known as nutcracker esophagus. These contractions can move the food from the tube to the stomach, but they cause severe pain.
The symptoms of esophageal spasm?
The most common symptom of esophageal spasm is chest pain which later spreads out in the form of pain in the arm, back, neck and jaws. This pain is very similar to that of a heart attack. If ever you face chest pain, you should take it seriously and consult your doctor to get checked if it is a cardiac attack.
Apart from this, other esophageal spasm symptoms include, finding it very difficult to swallow food, or getting pain when swallowing. Heart burn and the pain associated with the food getting stuck are other symptoms as well.
How is esophageal spasm diagnosed?
Diagnosing esophageal spasm is not that hard as your doctor might ask you some questions related to your medical history.
These questions are about what kind of foods or liquids get stuck, where it feels the food gets stuck, and some medicines that you should be taking in order to cure esophageal symptoms.
Further confirmation regarding esophageal spasm can be achieved by getting the esophageal tests done including the esophageal manometry test or the barium swallow.
Esophageal manometry makes use of a little tube which is attached to different instruments transducers who measure pressure. A barium swallow, on the other hand, is done using X-rays.
For their own satisfaction and to be hundred percent accurate, doctors might do other tests to find out if the chest pain is caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease known commonly as GERD, or the abnormal backflow reflux of food in which people face the problem of food coming in their mouth again and again, and other digestive juices from the stomach in to the esophagus.
How can esophagus spasm be treated?
Getting rid of esophageal spasm does not only include treating esophageal spasm itself but other conditions that make it worse as well such as the gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.
GERD is normally treated if you make changes in your diet and lifestyle and with the help of some medicines that help to lower the acids in your stomach.
Some other treatments for esophageal spasm include:
- When you go to your doctor to consult your problem he or she might tell you to omit any kinds of foods or he might tell you what to eat or what not to not. Certain foods take a longer time to digest and they may cause problems for you.
- Your doctor will also tell you which foods and liquids are easier to swallow.
- In this treatment, a device is used and place in your esophagus and it helps to expand and create space in your otherwise narrow areas of the esophagus. With the broadening of these areas, you will not be facing problems of food getting stuck. You may need to have this treatment a few times.
- Although this is rare and occurs only in extreme cases but this is also one of the treatments for esophagus spasm. Surgery is needed to be done with people who have problems related to the lower esophageal muscle known as achalasia.
- Doctors suggest medicines to those who cannot have dilation or surgery done. Common medicines which doctors suggest include, botulinum toxin. This medicine helps to relax the muscles in your esophagus.
What is a jackhammer esophagus?
Jackhammer esophagus is also known as hypercontractile peristalsis. It is an esophageal motility disorder which involves all of the muscles in the esophagus. In this condition, the spasms are so intense and last for a long time making the person feel extremely distressed in the end.
Causes of jackhammer esophagus
The obvious causes of jackhammer esophagus are exactly not known but it has been evolved that this condition might take place by abnormalities in the nerve pathways which control the esophagus tube or because of a large amount of acetylcholine. Some doctors say that jackhammer esophagus is caused by GERD.
Jackhammer esophagus is more common in those patients who already have a psychiatric illness and this condition is then treated with the help of antidepressants.
This, however, does not necessarily mean that those patients with psychiatric illness have jackhammer esophagus or if there is any connection between the two diseases.
Jackhammer esophagus is most common in:
- In people who belong to the race of Caucasians
- In women more than men
- More likely to be found in adults rather than children
Symptoms of jackhammer esophagus
Apart from esophageal spasm, other symptoms of jackhammer esophagus include:
- Chest pain
- When you feel like you have a lump in your throat
- When you feel difficulty in swallowing your food
- Regurgitation means the food eaten keeps on coming back in your mouth
- When you feel burning in your heart
The chest pain that is associated with jackhammer esophagus may be so severe that it might make you feel that you are about to have a heart attack. Some certain foods make the condition of jackhammer esophagus even worse.
What is a nutcracker esophagus?
Nutcracker esophagus is a condition in which you find it too difficult to swallow your food. In half of the patients, this kind of condition is caused by gastroesophageal reflux. The symptoms of nutcracker esophagus include chest pain which is similar to that of a heart attack.
Other symptoms include heartburn which is a burning sensation under the breastbone. One more common symptom is dysphagia which is a condition in which the food gets stuck under the breastbone.
Some treatments for treating nutcracker esophagus include:
- Doctors do the anti-reflux therapy as many patients who have nutcracker esophagus have GERD.
- Some drugs are given like nitrates and calcium channel blockers which help to relax the muscles of the esophagus.
- Some antidepressants are also given which are known to lower the level of pain in patients.
Some home remedies to treat esophageal spasms?
It is not always necessary to go for drugs or straightaway go to a doctor if you have esophagus spasm. Although in severe cases you should immediately consult a doctor, some home remedies are also available which you can use to treat your esophageal condition naturally.
Some of the home remedies to treat esophagus spasm naturally include:
- Make a list of foods that you feel cause esophagus spasm in you and cut them down in order to avoid eating those kinds of food.
- Avoid eating extremely hot and extremely cold food and so let your foods sit and rest for a while before actually digging in.
- Try to control your stress level as it is known that when a person takes more stress, esophageal spasms must be more common in them.
- Sucking a peppermint lozenge is known to heal esophageal spasms. Peppermint oil is a very smooth muscle relaxant and it relaxes your esophagus muscles. The perfect way to achieve its advantages is by keeping the peppermint lozenge under your tongue.
How to determine if your chest pain is related to the heart?
Chest pains are a source of great anxiety and stress if one goes through it. Chest pain is often associated with heart disease though it is not necessary. Nevertheless, chest pains should never be ignored or taken lightly.
It is very important for a person to learn the difference between chest pains that are related to heart attack and chest pains that are not related to heart attack.
One of the main sources of chest pain is the esophagus. The acid that refluxes back from the stomach and into the esophagus can be a kind of heart disorder. This is very commonly known as heartburn. It has nothing to do with the heart though.
Difference between chest pains and cardiac chest pain
Cardiac chest pains normally occur during the day while other chest pains occur at the end of the day. In a cardiac chest pain, a person feels heaviness and if the air is been squeezing out from them. In normal chest pains, it is very easy to locate the pain and it is not as severe as cardiac chest pain.
Cardiac chest pain may be brought about by exertion or carrying a heavyweight. It might be so severe that it can wake you up from your sleep. Other chest pain is associated with a kind of heartburn.
Cardiac chest pains last for a very long time but other chest pains may come and then quickly go as well. For cardiac arrest, immediate treatment is necessary, or it can be life-threatening, while for other chest pains, exertion or exercising might be enough.
What is diffuse esophageal spasm?
Diffuse esophageal spasm or DES is a condition which is characterized by the contractions in the esophagus which cause too much difficulty in swallowing dysphagia or else regurgitation. Sometimes this can lead to heart attack or chest pain.
The causes of diffuse esophageal spasm are not exactly known to this date, however many causes of it include uncontrolled brain signals that run to the nerve endings.
Some of the common medicines to treat this condition include anti-depressants and anti-epileptic medicines. It is reported that food which is either very hot or very cold might trigger these symptoms and might be one of the causes of it.
Drugs to treat diffuse esophageal spasm?
Some common drugs that can treat diffuse esophageal spasm are nitroglycerin, calcium channel blockers, hydralazine and some anti-anxiety medicines.
These medicines and drugs are known to treat mild cases of patients having diffuse esophageal spasms though in extreme cases, immediate surgery is required.
Esophageal spasms and its variants
Esophageal spasms can be divided into two variants known as diffuse esophageal spasm and hypertensive peristalsis. While diffuse esophageal spasm has been mentioned clearly above, hypertensive peristalsis is another name for nutcracker esophagus.
Its symptoms include dysphagia, regurgitation, and noncardiac chest pain. The best way to treat these situations is by the high-resolution manometry which has been known and proven to be successful.
Esophageal spasm, an overview?
Esophagus spasm is very normal nowadays. It is not a very deadly disease, but it can turn in to one provided you do not take care of it.
Often, we see people and most importantly kids choking vigorously on their foods until they get tears in their eyes. It is at that time when the food that they eat goes into the breathing tube which makes them choke.
In severe cases, you should contact your doctor and if you feel that you are undergoing with the treatment of your esophageal spasm but still not recovering from it you should contact your healthcare provider.
You should contact your health care provider if your symptoms do not improve even after treatment. You are losing weight without even trying. You get severe pain when you swallow food.
You have absolute right to plan your care. It is your responsibility to learn and get to know about your health condition and how you should treat it. You must discuss your treatment and its process with your family and friends.
It is just that you should go for a body checkup once a month or if you are above 40 then twice a month to avoid mishaps and deadly diseases.