An Indian lady suffering from a rare swallowing disorder has found relief at a Dubai hospital after years of discomfort and pain.
For more than three years, Srinidhi, 26, had been experiencing constant chest pain, coughing, weight loss and a feeling of food getting stuck in her food pipe.
After visiting many doctors and undergoing several tests, she started losing hope after the treatments prescribed did not seem to alleviate her condition.
Describing her ordeal, Srinidhi said: “It got really bad. We do not realise how important it is to be able to swallow foods or liquids. It impacts your quality of life tremendously. The coughing and chest pain got so bad that I would prefer not eating, which in turn depleted my body of necessary nutrients that helps maintain health. I was constantly anxious, avoided social settings and could not make out what was wrong with me.”
In June 2022, she visited an experienced Gastroenterologist and Interventional Endoscopist at Al Zahra Hospital Dubai, who, after corroborating the patient’s medical history and conducting an endoscopy, esophageal manometry and barium aided x-rays, diagnosed her with a rare swallowing condition that affects one in 100,000 people worldwide – Achalasia Cardia, a swallowing disorder in which the pressure of the sphincter muscle controlling the passage of food from the food pipe to the stomach gets elevated.
The doctor explained that it was coupled with the inability of the muscles in the food pipe to contract effectively to push the food down into the stomach.
Dr Gaurav Muktesh, Specialist Gastroenterologist at Al Zahra Hospital Dubai, said: “In Achlasia Cardia, the food pipe can get hugely dilated and tortuous. This leads to difficulty in swallowing, chest pain, weight loss, nutritional deficiencies and aspiration of food contents into the windpipe resulting in coughing and lung infections.”
Dr Muktesh is one of the few Gastroenterologists in the UAE to be trained and skilled to perform the latest advanced endoscopic procedure to treat this illness.
“Some studies suggest that patients with untreated achalasia may also have a higher risk of esophageal cancer,” he added.
Srinidhi then underwent a successful ‘Peroral endoscopic myotomy (POEM)’ procedure. This is an endoscopic surgery that involves dividing the muscle fibers and releasing the pressures of the food pipe and the tight muscles at the lower end of the food pipe to facilitate easy entry of food into the stomach. After the surgery, that proved to be life-changing for Srinidhi, she started accepting liquids that now moved smoothly through the food pipe into the stomach.
Within a few days post-surgery, she began eating normally, without experiencing any of the symptoms she had been suffering from for years.
Dr Muktesh added: “Due to the rarity of the condition and lack of awareness, patients tend to suffer for years, often being misdiagnosed or not receiving the right level of care. Very few doctors around the world are trained to carry out the POEM procedure. This procedure has transformed the lives of thousands of patients suffering from Achalasia across the world. We are proud to be the leaders in the region providing this latest, external incisionless endoscopic treatment option to patients suffering with this disorder.”