Reference Index - Disease & Conditions

Back to Health Library

Digestive system
Digestive system


Throat anatomy
Throat anatomy


Esophageal spasm

Definition:

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.



Alternative Names:

Diffuse esophageal spasm; Spasm of the esophagus



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

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:

Signs and tests:

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.



Support Groups:



Expectations (prognosis):

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



Complications:

The condition may not respond to treatment.



Calling your health care provider:

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.




Review Date: 8/22/2008
Reviewed By: Christian Stone, MD, Division of Gastroenterology, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
adam.com


Greater Baltimore Medical Center | 6701 North Charles Street | Baltimore, MD 21204 | (443) 849-2000 | TTY (800) 735-2258
© 2014  GBMC. This website is for informational purposes only and not intended as medical advice or a substitute for a consultation with a professional healthcare provider.