Diffuse esophageal spasm (DES) is a condition characterized by uncoordinated contractions of the esophagus during swallowing. The esophagus is the tube that contracts or squeezes to help move food from the mouth to the stomach. These spasms do not properly propel food into the stomach and can cause chest pain, regurgitation, heartburn, the feeling that something is stuck, or difficulty swallowing (dysphagia).
Though the exact cause of DES is unknown, there are several suspected causes. One is by atypical brain signals to the esophagus which triggers a spasm or that there may be an underlying condition such as reflux causing it. Another cause may be a problem with the muscles in the lower portion of the esophagus (achalasia). It is thought that anxiety or panic attacks may also be a culprit in some. Treatment includes treating the underlying medical condition if there is one determined. Other options include dietary changes or medications to reduce the level of acid in the stomach. It is also thought that that DES can be triggered by very hot or cold beverages. Therefore, avoiding these beverages may alleviate symptoms. Diagnosis is made by documenting a history of spasms and possible triggers along with specific testing such as a barium swallow. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with diffuse esophageal spasm, talk to your doctor to discuss the most current treatment options.