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Diseases reference index «Esophageal spasm»

Esophageal spasm

Esophageal spasms are abnormal contractions of the muscles in the esophagus (the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach). These spasms do not move food effectively to the stomach.

Causes

The cause of esophageal spasm is unknown. Very hot or very cold foods may trigger an episode in some people. It can be hard to tell a spasm from angina. The pain may spread to the neck, jaw, arms, or back.

Symptoms

  • Difficulty swallowing or pain with swallowing
  • Heartburn
  • Pain in the chest or upper abdomen

Exams and Tests

  • Esophageal manometry
  • Esophagogram

Treatment

Nitroglycerin given under the tongue (sublingual) may be effective in an acute episode. Long-acting nitroglycerin and calcium channel blockers are also used to treat esophageal spasms. Long-term (chronic) cases are sometimes treated with low-dose antidepressants such as nortriptyline to reduce symptoms.

Rarely, severe cases need surgery.

Outlook (Prognosis)

An esophageal spasm may come and go (intermittent) or last for a long time (chronic). Medicine can help relieve symptoms.

Possible Complications

The condition may not respond to treatment.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have symptoms of esophageal spasm that don't go away.

Prevention

Avoid very hot or very cold foods if you get esophageal spasms.

Alternative Names

Diffuse esophageal spasm; Spasm of the esophagus