Definition

What is cardiospasm?

Cardiospasm, also called achalasia, is a rare disorder that makes it difficult for food and liquid to pass into your stomach. Cardiospasm occurs when the food tube (esophagus) loses the ability to squeeze food down, and the muscular valve between the esophagus and stomach doesn’t fully relax. The cause of cardiospasm is unknown; however, there is degeneration of the esophageal muscles and, more importantly, the nerves that control the muscles.

Complications of cardiospasm include lung problems and weight loss. Cardiospasm may increase the risk of cancer of the esophagus, but this not well established.

How common is cardiospasm?

Cardiospasm can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of cardiospasm?

People with cardiospasm will often have trouble swallowing or feel like food is stuck in their esophagus. This is also known as dysphagia. This symptom can cause coughing and raises the risk of aspiration, or inhaling or choking on food. Other symptoms include:

  • Pain or discomfort in your chest
  • Weight loss
  • Intense pain or discomfort after eating
  • Difficulty swallowing both solid and liquid food
  • Chest discomfort from esophageal dilation and/or retained food
  • Sharp chest pain usually of unclear cause
  • Heartburn; however, the heartburn is not characteristic of heartburn and is not helped by treatment for heartburn
  • Loss of weight due to reduced intake of food

You might also have regurgitation or backflow. However, these can be symptoms of other gastrointestinal conditions such as acid reflux.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes cardiospasm?

Cardiospasm can happen for different reasons. It can be difficult for your doctor to find a specific cause. This condition may be hereditary, or it may be the result of an autoimmune condition, which occurs when your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in your body. The degeneration of nerves in your esophagus often contributes to the advanced symptoms of the condition.

Other conditions can cause symptoms similar to cardiospasm. Cancer of the esophagus is one of these conditions. Another cause is a rare parasitic infection called Chagas’ disease. This disease occurs mostly in South America.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for cardiospasm?

Cardiospasm usually occurs later in life, but it can also occur in children. Individuals who are middle-aged and older are at higher risk for the condition. Cardiospasm is also more common in people with autoimmune disorders.

Diagnosis & Treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

 

How is cardiospasm diagnosed?

Your doctor might suspect you have cardiospasm if you have trouble swallowing both solids and liquids, particularly if it gets worse over time.

Your doctor may use esophageal manometry to diagnose cardiospasm. This involves placing a tube in your esophagus while you swallow. The tube records the muscle activity and makes sure your esophagus is functioning properly.

An X-ray or similar exam of your esophagus may also be helpful in diagnosing this condition. Other doctors prefer to perform an endoscopy. In this procedure, your doctor will insert a tube with a small camera on the end into your esophagus to look for problems.

Another diagnostic method is a barium swallow. If you have this test, you’ll swallow barium prepared in liquid form. Your doctor will then track the barium’s movement down your esophagus through X-rays.

How is cardiospasm treated?

Most cardiospasm treatments involve your LES. Several types of treatment can either temporarily reduce your symptoms or permanently alter the function of the valve.

The first line of treatment is often oral medications. Nitrates or calcium channel blockers can help relax the sphincter so food can pass through it more easily. Your doctors might also use Botox to relax the sphincter.

To treat cardiospasm more permanently, your doctors can either dilate the sphincter or alter it. Dilation typically involves inserting a balloon into your esophagus and inflating it. This stretches out the sphincter and helps your esophagus function better. However, sometimes dilation tears the sphincter. If this happens, you may need additional surgery to repair it.

Esophagomyotomy is a type of surgery that can help you if you have cardiospasm. Your doctor will use a large or small incision to access the sphincter and carefully alter it to allow better flow into the stomach. The great majority of esophagomyotomy procedures are successful. However, some patients have problems afterward with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If you have GERD, your stomach acid backs up into your esophagus. This can cause heartburn.

Treatment can be highly successful. Multiple treatments are sometimes necessary. Surgery may be necessary if a dilation procedure doesn’t work the first time. Usually, the chance of success decreases with each successive dilation. Therefore, your doctor will probably seek alternatives if several dilations are unsuccessful.

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage cardiospasm?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with cardiospasm:

  • Drinking liquid foods
  • Drinking more water with meals, and
  • Drinking carbonated beverages (the carbonation seems to help “push” the food through the esophageal sphincter)

If a person with cardiospasm has weight loss that is substantial; their diet may be supplemented by a liquid diet that is complete (contains all necessary nutrients to prevent malnutrition).

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: April 22, 2017 | Last Modified: April 22, 2017

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