Abnormal muscle behavior can disrupt digestive process

Motility refers to the movement of food through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This movement is made possible through the coordination of esophageal and intestinal muscle contractions that keep food moving from the mouth down through the esophagus into the intestine and to the rectum. If there is an abnormality, such as a muscle spasm that disrupts the normal activity, certain symptoms may occur.

Symptoms and causes of esophageal and intestinal motility disorders

You can have a motility disorder that affects any part of the GI tract, from upper or lower esophagus to intestines. Examples of esophageal motility disorders include gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) and achalasia, a condition in which the valve connecting the esophagus and the stomach does not relax.

Examples of symptoms and conditions associated with intestinal motility disorders include diarrhea, constipation, fecal incontinence, gastroparesis, and irritable bowel syndrome. This type of disorder sometimes runs in families (hereditary) or may be caused by other diseases or disorders, such as Parkinson disease, lupus or diabetes.

Diagnosis and treatment of motility disorders

To accurately diagnose a motility disorder, your doctor may order certain tests, including blood test, X-ray or biopsy. You may also undergo an esophageal motility study or a gastric motility study so the doctor can see pictures of how food is moving or not moving through the digestive process.

Treatment for motility disorders usually involves a combination of dietary changes and medication to relieve symptoms. In rare instances, a surgical approach may be recommended.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.