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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – Life was entirely normal for a North Texas man, until he began to develop symptoms of a condition that makes it nearly impossible to eat or drink.

Wayne Weaver said he first noticed symptoms last fall. “I wasn’t able to eat the normal amount of food, because my esophagus was telling me it wouldn’t take any more in,” said Weaver, who is 79 years old, a long-time Irving resident and a great-grand father.

Weaver was diagnosed with achalasia – a condition where the muscle that allows food to pass to the stomach does not relax. Chest pain is one symptom.

man-can't-eat

The ‘full’ feeling that the condition caused, began to lead to weight loss for Weaver, who was never heavy to begin with. “I’ve had the same weight for 40 years, so losing weight was not correct,” he said.

When Dr. Steven Leeds, a minimally invasive surgery specialist at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, met Weaver he had lost 17 pounds. Looking at him now Dr. Leeds said, “Last I saw you, you were dwindling.”

According to Dr. Leeds, achalasia affects approximately one in 10,000 people. He sees it trending in two age groups: patients in their 20s to 30s, and ones in their 60s to 70s. Unintentional weight loss can be dramatic.

“Typically patients who come to us will lose 20, 30, sometimes even 70 pounds before they’re properly diagnosed or treated,” Dr. Leeds said, who says scientists don’t understand why achalasia happens.

Surgery to fix the condition has advanced in recent years. What used to require an operation with an external incision to the stomach, is now done internally through endoscopy.

Dr. Leeds performed surgery on Wayne Weaver in late January of this year, using a tiny camera down the esophagus to see the muscle affected. “We get to the esophagus, and cut that muscle and relieve that pressure, which allows things to pass,” he said.

Mr. Weaver spent one night in the hospital and says he had no post-surgery pain. Months later, he is back to his regular weight, feeling like himself again, and most importantly he said, “I’m eating fine.”

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