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Diffuse esophageal spasm is a rare disorder that makes it hard to swallow foods and liquids. It can sometimes cause non-cardiac chest pain. The esophagus is the muscular tube that moves food or drink from the throat down into the stomach when you swallow. Its muscles produce a wave of coordinated contractions that pushes food down to the stomach.
In diffuse esophageal spasm, these muscle contractions are irregular or uncoordinated, which causes food to get stuck sometimes in the esophagus or to come back up (regurgitation). In some people with diffuse esophageal spasm, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES)—the valve between the esophagus and stomach—does not open and close properly.
The following factors may contribute to or worsen this condition:
The exact cause of diffuse esophageal spasm is unknown. Some experts think that the nerves that control swallowing may not work well in people with this disorder.
Diffuse esophageal spasm is most common in people between the ages of 60 and 80. People with diffuse esophageal spasms experience one or more of these symptoms:
If you have symptoms of diffuse esophageal spasm, you will need to undergo testing. In the Esophageal Function Laboratory at Norton Thoracic Institute, you may undergo:
A number of treatments are available to treat diffuse esophageal spasm:
You cannot prevent diffuse esophageal spasm, but lifestyle changes may help control your symptoms:
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