Mother accused of being anorexic after her weight fell to 5st actually has rare disorder that stops her swallowing

  • Hayley Laughton, 23, developed problems swallowing food in 2013
  • It became so bad she was unable to drink water without being sick
  • Doctors referred her to eating disorder specialists suspecting anorexia
  • Diagnosed with oesophagus disorder achalasia - stopping her swallowing

An 'anorexic' mother whose weight plummeted to just over five stone actually had a rare condition which meant she couldn't swallow food. 

Hayley Laughton, 23, was referred to an eating disorder service while doctors battled to find out why her weight had dramatically dropped.

Miss Laughton, from Hull, East Yorkshire, first developed problems swallowing her food in 2013 and started losing weight.

After just one year her weight had plummeted to 5.5 stone and she was unable to even keep down a sip of water. 

But it was only after suffering a seizure caused by severe dehydration that she was finally diagnosed with achalasia.

Hayley Laughton, pictured with son Riley, four, saw her weight plummet to just over five stone because of a condition which stopped the muscles in her oesophagus from working properly

Hayley Laughton, pictured with son Riley, four, saw her weight plummet to just over five stone because of a condition which stopped the muscles in her oesophagus from working properly

The condition is a disorder of the oesophagus where the muscles which allow food to pass into the stomach stop working properly.

Miss Laughton said she had to give up work and struggled to look after her son, Riley, four, before she knew what was wrong with her. 

'Every time I tried to eat, nothing would stay down and it felt like I was suffocating. It was an absolute nightmare,' she said. 

'I used to live in my bedroom because I couldn't eat anywhere else because I was sick all the time.

'I was passing out and it used to upset my son so much to see me like that.

'He used to rub my back and say ''Please don't be sick, Mummy''.'

Unable to lead a normal life, she said she went to doctors countless times for help.

She was referred to eating disorder specialists, saw dietitians and underwent a range of tests and scans - but the problem with her oesophagus never showed up. 

Miss Laughton has since had an operation on her  to allow food to pass from her oesophagus into her stomach and she now weighs a healthy nine-and-a-half stone

Miss Laughton has since had an operation on her  to allow food to pass from her oesophagus into her stomach and she now weighs a healthy nine-and-a-half stone

She was finally admitted to Hull Royal Infirmary where doctors diagnosed achalasia and has since had surgery

'I suffered with it for almost two-and-a-half years and the doctors put it down to anorexia and problems with my mental health.

WHAT IS ACHALASIA?

Achalasia, or cardiospasm, is a disorder of the gullet (oesophagus) where it loses the ability to move food along. 

The valve at the end of the gullet also fails to open and allow food to pass into the stomach.

As a result, food gets stuck in the gullet and is often brought back up.

A ring of muscle called the lower oesophageal (cardiac) sphincter keeps the opening from the gullet to the stomach shut tight to preventacid reflux (acidic stomach content moving back up into the gullet).

Normally, this muscle relaxes when people swallow to allow the food to pass into the stomach.

In achalasia, this muscle does not relax properly and the end of the gullet becomes blocked with food.

Achalasia is an uncommon condition that affects about 6,000 people in Britain. 

Symptoms can start at any time of life and usually come on gradually.

Most people with achalasia have dysphagia, a condition where they find it difficult and sometimes painful to swallow food. 

This tends to get worse over a couple of years.

Source: NHS Choices 

'They even gave me tablets for depression.'

Then, in August, she went on holiday with her family to Spain but was forced to come home after just four days following a seizure.

There, she was admitted to Hull Royal Infirmary suffering severe dehydration.

'I was in and out of hospital and then I was referred to another specialist for a second opinion,' she said. 'He said he had seen this condition once before but it was very rare.'

Miss Laughton underwent tests and a 'barium swallow' -  an X-ray imaging test used to visualise the structures of the oesophagus

This confirmed she had achalasia, which causes the muscles to tense.

She said: 'I finally saw a doctor who suspected it might be achalasia and I was just so relieved to know what it was.

'They've told me it's a really rare condition but I don't want anyone else to have to go through what happened to me.'

Affecting about 6,000 people in Britain, it is a condition mainly found in older women.

Miss Laughton had an operation in December to allow food to pass from her oesophagus into her stomach.

She now weighs a healthy nine and a half stone.

'It's made a real difference and I'm able to eat and drink now, although I still struggle with things like bread,' she said.

'They have said achalasia will never go away, but this operation is a way of coping with it and improving my quality of life.

'It's been an absolute nightmare and I just want to raise awareness about the condition to help other people who might be going through what I went through.'

 

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