A British mother doctors assumed to have anorexia nervosa was later found to have a rare medical condition.
Hayley Laughton, 23, lost weight dramatically over the course of a year. She ended up weighing only 77 pounds at one point, the Daily Mail reports.
The illness rendered her unable to work or take care of her 4-year-old son, Riley.
“Every time I tried to eat, nothing would stay down and it felt like I was suffocating. It was an absolute nightmare,” Laughton 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.'"
Determined to get better, Laughton visited various dieticians and underwent tests, but to no avail.
Unable to explain Laughton's sudden inability to swallow food, doctors referred her to an eating disorder clinic, but it wasn’t helping.
“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,” Laughton said. “They even gave me tablets for depression.”
A seizure triggered by a severe dehydration while on vacation revealed a far more rare condition as the culprit: achalasia.
Achalasia is a medical condition in which the muscles within the esophagus enabling food to pass into the stomach do not function properly, the U.K.’s National Health Services website reports. Only 6,000 people in Britain are affected by it, making it a rare illness.
After performing tests for the condition, a specialist confirmed the diagnosis.
“I finally saw a doctor who suspected it might be achalasia and I was just so relieved to know what it was,” said Laughton.
Since then, she has had surgery and is now finally at a healthy weight.
“It's made a real difference and I'm able to eat and drink now, although I still struggle with things like bread. They have said achalasia will never go away, but this operation is a way of coping with it and improving my quality of life,” she said.