Achalasia is a disorder of the esophagus (the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach) that leads to difficulty swallowing. Normally, the lower esophageal sphincter, a muscular ring where the esophagus and stomach come together, relaxes during swallowing. But with achalasia of the esophagus, the sphincter does not relax, making it difficult for food to pass from the esophagus into the stomach. In addition, the smooth muscles of the esophagus do not function properly to move the food down the esophagus. 

Achalasia can occur on its own or as a secondary condition to certain diseases, such as cancer. 

At Yale Bariatric/Gastrointestinal Surgery, our innovative surgeons perform minimally invasive procedures, many of which are at the leading edge of gastrointestinal surgery, to treat achalasia. Our multidisciplinary team works collectively to create personalized treatment plans that provide the best options for each patient, reflecting his or her specific condition and individual needs.

Risk Factors

A risk factor is anything that increases the chance of developing a disease. Achalasia is caused by damage to the nerves of the esophageal sphincter muscle. Achalasia is a rare disorder that can occur at any age but is most common in middle-aged or older adults. In some cases, the disorder is inherited. 

Having one of the above risk factors does not mean that you will develop achalasia. Understanding your risk factors will help you determine, what, if any, precautions and special screening you should consider.


The two main symptoms of achalasia are dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) and regurgitation. Dysphagia can include both liquid and solid foods and can worsen over time. 

If you have achalasia, you might also experience other symptoms, including: 

  • Weight loss 
  • Coughing when lying down 
  • Chest pain that resembles heartburn, or, in some cases, can feel like a heart attack. 
  • Aspiration (when food and liquid retained in the esophagus are inhaled into the lungs) 
If you have one or more of the above symptoms, it does not mean that you have achalasia. If you think you have achalasia, please contact your doctor.

Make An Appointment

Yale Bariatric/Gastrointestinal Surgery Program
40 Temple Street, Suite 7B
New Haven, CT 06510

T 203.785.6060 or 203.785.2616
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