Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Achalasia

The exact cause of achalasia is unknown, but there are risk factors that may increase your chances of developing this condition, including:

  • Genetics: Research has shown that the tendency for achalasia can be inherited from your parents.
  • Weakened immune system: Any condition that suppresses your immune system can increase the chances of achalasia.
  • Viral infection: Viruses, including the herpes simplex virus, are related to the development of achalasia.
  • Age: Achalasia can happen at any age, but it most frequently occurs in people ages 30 to 60.

Diagnosing Achalasia

Tests to diagnose achalasia include:

  • Fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES): A thin, lighted tube with a camera attached to it is passed through your mouth and esophagus. Your physician can look at pictures of your digestive tract and take a biopsy (tissue sample) for examination under a microscope.
  • Esophagram/barium swallow: Special X-rays are taken of your esophagus after you drink barium, a contrast material that coats your esophagus and shows up well on X-rays.
  • Pharyngeal manometry: A pressure-sensitive tube is passed through your nose and into your stomach to measure pressure inside your esophagus.
  • pH monitoring: A nasogastric tube is passed through your nose into the lower esophagus for 24 hours to monitor the acid level in your esophagus.