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Achalasia often develops over several years and causes difficulty with swallowing. The cause is unknown, but achalasia may start with a virus that causes the body's immune system to attack cells in the esophagus that signal the body to swallow. Achalasia usually occurs in adults and is not hereditary.
Achalasia develops due to nerve damage in the esophagus, usually related to a change in the immune system. It is a rare disorder that occurs in 3,000 people in the United States each year.