The esophagus is a muscular tube connecting the throat with the stomach. It is approximately eight inches long and lined with moist pink tissue known as mucosa. The esophagus runs behind the trachea (windpipe) and heart and in front of the spine and passes through the diaphragm just before entering the stomach.
Common problems with the esophagus include:
Gastroparesis is a condition affecting the spontaneous movement of the muscles in the stomach. Normally, food is propelled through the digestive tract by strong muscular contractions. With gastroparesis, this movement is slowed down or does not occur at all, which prevents the stomach from emptying properly.
The delay in gastric emptying associated with gastroparesis can lead to prolonged retention of food that may have a propensity to reflux. The food that remains in the stomach causes an increase in pressure and gastric acid secretion, which can lead to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition that develops with frequent reflux.
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Achalasia is a serious condition affecting the esophagus. The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is the muscular ring that closes off the esophagus from the stomach and should open when you swallow. With achalasia, the LES fails to open, leading to a backup of food within the esophagus, and making it difficult for foods or liquids to pass into the stomach. This occurs when the nerves in the esophagus become damaged. The esophagus loses its ability to squeeze food downward, and the LES fails to fully relax. There is no cure for achalasia. Symptoms can be managed with minimally-invasive therapy or surgery.
POEM surgery is performed to relieve tightness and allow the esophagus to empty normally to pass food into the stomach.