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Am J Gastroenterol. 2005 Jun;100(6):1404-14.

Etiology and pathogenesis of achalasia: the current understanding.

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Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Center for Swallowing and Esophageal Disorders, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio 44195, USA.


Idiopathic achalasia is an inflammatory disease of unknown etiology characterized by esophageal aperistalsis and failure of LES relaxation due to loss of inhibitory nitrinergic neurons in the esophageal myenteric plexus. Proposed causes of achalasia include gastroesophageal junction obstruction, neuronal degeneration, viral infection, genetic inheritance, and autoimmune disease. Current evidence suggests that the initial insult to the esophagus, perhaps a viral infection or some other environmental factor, results in myenteric plexus inflammation. The inflammation then leads to an autoimmune response in a susceptible population who may be genetically predisposed. Subsequently, chronic inflammation leads to destruction of the inhibitory myenteric ganglion cells resulting in the clinical syndrome of idiopathic achalasia. Further studies are needed to better understand the etiology and pathogenesis of achalasia-such an understanding will be important in developing safe, effective, and possibly curative therapy for achalasia.

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