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.
The cause of esophageal spasm is unknown. Very hot or very cold foods may trigger an episode in some people.
Nitroglycerin given under the tongue (sublingual) may help a sudden episode of esophageal spasm. Long-acting nitroglycerin and calcium channel blockers are also used for the problem.
Long-term (chronic) cases are sometimes treated with low-dose antidepressants such as trazodone or nortriptyline to reduce symptoms.
Rarely, severe cases may need dilation (widening) of the esophagus or surgery. to control symptoms
An esophageal spasm may come and go (intermittent) or last for a long time (chronic). Medicine can help relieve symptoms.
The condition may not respond to treatment.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of esophageal spasm that don't go away.
Avoid very hot or very cold foods if you get esophageal spasms.
Diffuse esophageal spasm; Spasm of the esophagus
Kahrilas PJ, Pandolfino JE. Esophageal neuromuscular function and motility disorders. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds.Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease
Update Date 10/8/2012
Updated by: George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, and Stephanie Slon.