Barrett's Esophagus

The esophagus is a tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. Chronic esophagitis is inflammation of the esophagus. Barrett's esophagus is a complication of chronic esophagitis. Barrett's esophagus is a change in the cells that line the esophagus. Normal cells are flat-shaped squamous cells. Barrett's esophagus cells are shaped like a column. This cell change is called metaplasia . It is a premalignant phase that may result in cancer of the esophagus if it is not treated.

  • Causes


    The exact cause of Barrett's esophagus is not known. It may result from damage to the esophagus caused by the chronic reflux of stomach acid. Frequent or chronic reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus is called
    gastroesophageal reflux disease
    or GERD.

    Gastroesophageal Reflux
    Gastroesophageal Reflux
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  • Definition

    The esophagus is a tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. Chronic esophagitis is inflammation of the esophagus. Barrett's esophagus is a complication of chronic esophagitis.


    Barrett's esophagus is a change in the cells that line the esophagus. Normal cells are flat-shaped squamous cells. Barrett's esophagus cells are shaped like a column. This cell change is called
    metaplasia
    . It is a premalignant phase that may result in cancer of the esophagus if it is not treated.

  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. In order to diagnose Barrett's esophagus, your doctor may recommend an upper GI endoscopy with a biopsy.

  • Prevention

    The best way to prevent Barrett's esophagus is to reduce and/or treat the reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus. This is usually caused by GERD. Self-care measures for GERD include:


    • Do not smoke. If you smoke,
      quit
      .

    • If you are overweight,
      lose weight
      .
    • Raise the head of your bed onto 4-6 inch blocks.
    • Avoid clothes with tight belts or waistbands.
    • Avoid foods
      that cause heartburn. These include alcohol, caffeinated beverages, chocolate, and foods that are fatty. This also includes spicy or acidic foods such as citrus or tomatoes.
    • Do not eat or drink for 3-4 hours before you lie down or go to bed.

  • Risk Factors

    Barrett's esophagus is more common in Caucasian men over 40 years old. Other factors that increase your chances of Barrett's esophagus include chronic heartburn or a history of GERD.

  • Symptoms

    In some cases Barrett's esophagus may not produce symptoms.

    Some people with GERD may have the following symptoms:

    • Heartburn
    • Regurgitation
    • Sore throat
      or chronic cough
    • Hoarse voice
    • Sour taste in mouth from acid reflux

    More serious symptoms include:


    • Difficulty or pain with swallowing, a condition called
      dysphagia
    • Weight loss

    • Fatigue, or difficulty or pain with breathing associated with
      anemia

  • Treatment

    The cell changes from Barrett's esophagus are permanent once they occur. Talk to your doctor about the best treatment options for you. Treatment may include: