A family member has been diagnosed with a rare disorder
called achalasia. It affects 2 out of 10,000 individuals. However, with the
world population passing 6 billion, this disorder can now be found in some 1.2
million people. It strikes young and old, men & women alike. They do not
know the cause, and it is not curable. Achalasia causes some of the nerves which
control some of the muscles of the esophagus to die. The swallowing mechanism is
therefore disrupted or destroyed. Food and liquid become stuck in the esophagus,
causing terrible choking and painful spasms. There is a great loss of weight,
because the act of eating is so difficult. Choking at night leads to a severe
sleep disorder. There is an increased risk of esophageal cancer.
Surgery that cuts into the affected esophageal muscles, and
injections of botulism toxin are the current procedures. Additionally, the valve
or sphincter at the base of the esophagus is stretched and ripped to widen the
opening so that food can pass through to the stomach. These are the standard
treatments for achalasia.
After enduring all of this, my relative continues to suffer
intensely. The surgeons now would like to remove the lower portion the esophagus
completely. This is currently considered the "cure" for achalasia.