The esophagus runs from the mouth to the stomach and is part of a person’s digestive system. It moves food from the throat to the stomach by contracting in a coordinated manner.
The esophagus is the tube that carries the food and drink a person ingests into their stomach. It is around 10 inches in length and has muscular walls lined with mucous membranes.
For some, esophageal spasms happen frequently and interfere with the ability to eat and drink normally. When this is the case, treatment is usually required.
Fast facts on esophageal spasms:
- Most people tend to experience esophageal spasms infrequently.
- Those between the ages of 60 and 80 are more likely to have them.
- A doctor can diagnose the condition by performing several tests.
Causes of esophageal spasm
There is no definitive reason why esophageal spasms occur. It is thought that a problem with the nerves controlling the esophageal muscles may be one cause.
Many people find that there are specific triggers that prompt esophageal spasms. These include:
- food and drink, such as red wine or spicy food
- temperature of food, being either too hot or too cold
- medication and treatment for cancer, including radiation or surgery on the esophagus
- stress, depression, or anxiety
- gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), if scarring or narrowing of the esophagus occurs
Esophageal spasms are divided into two categories:
Diffuse esophageal spasms: These usually make a person regurgitate food or drink. They happen only occasionally and can be painful.
Nutcracker esophagus: Where painful spasms occur, but no food or liquid is regurgitated. They can make it hard for a person to swallow.