Achalasia Treatment Specialists in New Jersey
Since achalasia is so rare, it’s not uncommon to go for years without ever receiving a correct diagnosis. Symptoms of the condition closely mimic those of acid reflux. As a result, many doctors treat these symptoms without looking any further for the cause of your discomfort. The experienced doctors at Advanced Surgical & Bariatrics of NJ, PA always go the extra mile to make sure you receive the proper care for your gastrointestinal difficulties. And you’re within easy reach of these specialists if you live in northern New Jersey, southern New York or eastern Pennsylvania. If GERD treatment isn’t relieving your symptoms, call for an appointment to get the best treatment available at one of five locations.
A rare disorder, achalasia impedes the process of passing food and liquids from your esophagus into your stomach. Your esophagus is the tube that stretches from your mouth to your stomach. Achalasia begins when the esophageal nerves are damaged and you lose the ability to force food down into your stomach.
Between your esophagus and your stomach, there’s a muscular valve called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) that regulates the flow of foods and liquids while you eat and drink. Achalasia prevents the valve from opening downward, so food can’t pass through to your stomach. This food can’t be digested and builds up in your esophagus, causing painful symptoms.
Achalasia vs. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
The condition is often confused with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) since the two conditions share similar symptoms. While both result in heartburn and regurgitation, they’re actually opposite problems. With GERD, the LES allows food to pass through to the stomach, but also to return up from the stomach to your throat.
If you’re suffering from digestive problems, you need an expert diagnosis to rule out achalasia. NJ bariatric of Advanced Surgical & Bariatrics of NJ, PA (ASBNJ) has some of the best achalasia doctors in the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Their patient care is unsurpassed, and they offer five different locations to support you. Take your first step toward relieving your reflux problems by visiting ASBNJ.
Reaching an Achalasia Diagnosis
Due to its similarity to other digestive disorders, achalasia is easy to misdiagnose. Your gastrointestinal specialist may order diagnostic tests that can help determine whether or not you have it. They include:
- X-rays. Your doctor takes an x-ray of your upper digestive system after you drink a chalky liquid. The liquid coats the inside of your digestive tract and creates an outline of your upper intestine, stomach and esophagus on the x-ray. Another option before your x-ray is taking a barium pill to determine if there’s a blockage in your esophagus.
- An endoscope is a long flexible tube with a light and camera at the end of it. Your doctor inserts it into your throat to view your esophagus and stomach. If the barium study indicated a blockage, the endoscopy allows your doctor to investigate it further.
- Esophageal manometry. An achalasia specialist doctor measures the ability of your esophageal sphincter to open and close when you swallow by measuring its rhythmic muscle contractions.
You must receive a proper diagnosis. If left untreated, achalasia can lead to anemia, malnutrition and eventually cause you to lose the functionality of your LES. Additionally, you face the added risk of developing cancer of the esophagus.
Doctors who specialize in achalasia focus their treatment on the lower esophageal sphincter. They try to force it open or relax it enough so that food can pass through to your stomach. Your treatment depends on the severity of your symptoms, but both surgical and non-surgical options are available. Non-surgical treatments include:
- Balloon dilation. During this outpatient procedure, your doctor inserts a balloon down your throat and into your LES. Inflating the balloon opens the sphincter valve. Further treatments may be necessary if the valve doesn’t remain open. Approximately one-third of patients require a follow-up within six years.
- Botulinum toxin type A. Botox freezes muscles, which is why it makes such a good treatment for hiding facial wrinkles. Another use for Botox is injecting it into your LES using an endoscope. While additional injections may be necessary, repeated treatments may preclude eventual surgery. This treatment is generally reserved for those whose overall health prevents them from undergoing balloon dilation or surgery.
- Muscle relaxants like nitroglycerin or nifedipine can be beneficial when taken before a meal or as recommended by your doctor. But the benefits are often small compared to the side effects. The best achalasia doctors generally consider them to be a last resort treatment.
Surgical options to treat achalasia include:
- Heller myotomy. Your surgeon cuts the muscle attached to your lower esophageal sphincter to permit the flow of food and drink into your stomach. Unfortunately, this procedure may eventually lead to GERD.
- Peroral endoscopic myotomy. Also known as POEM, a peroral endoscopic myotomy is similar to a Heller myotomy, but your surgeon uses an endoscope to perform the incisions.
If you’re looking for northern New Jersey doctors who specialize in achalasia diagnosis and treatment, Advanced Surgical & Bariatrics of NJ, PA has some of the northeast’s top achalasia doctors. Contact the practice today to make an appointment at one of their five locations: Somerset, Princeton, Marlboro, East Brunswick or Edison. Make sure you get an accurate diagnosis from a doctor who knows what to look for.