Esophageal Motility Disorders

An esophageal motility disorder (EMD) is a disorder of the esophagus that may cause swallowing difficulties, spasms of pain or regurgitation of food. There are many types of EMDs, including:

  • Spastic EMD: This motility disorder may encompass several types, including:
    • Diffuse esophageal spasm
    • Nutcracker esophagus
    • Hypertensive lower esophageal sphincter nonspecific EMD
  • Achalasia: Achalasia is a rare disorder of the esophagus that affects the ability of the esophagus to move food toward the stomach. It may occur at any age, but is typically more common in middle-aged and older persons. It may be inherited, as well.
  • Esophageal scleroderma: As in most autoimmune disorders, the body attacks itself, causing the scarring and thickening of the esophagus tissues. This causes abnormal functioning of the smooth muscle of the esophagus, inhibiting its ability to move food toward the stomach.


Diagnosis of EMD may require a test to measure the pressure within the esophagus as you swallow or the use of an endoscope (thin tube with a camera at the end of it) to examine the lining of your esophagus. Your physician will consult with you about determining the type of EMD you may have and how best to treat it.


Treatments of an EMD will depend on the specific nature of the disorder. For many EMDs, there are medications and surgical treatments available. Your physician will discuss the best options for you, as well as any potential complications that may arise from treatment.

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