What Is Barrett Esophagus?

Overview

Barrett esophagus is a disorder in which the lining of the esophagus is damaged by stomach acid. The esophagus is also called the food pipe, and it connects your throat to your stomach.

Causes

Barrett’s esophagus develops in some people who have chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus). Most patients with Barrett’s esophagus will not develop cancer. However, in some patients a precancerous change in the tissue, called dysplasia, will develop. So, it is important to have regular checkups for precancerous cells.

Symptoms

The following are the most common symptoms of Barrett’s esophagus. However each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Waking in the night because of heartburn pain
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Blood in vomit or stool

The symptoms of Barrett’s esophagus may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

Diagnosis

The doctor will perform an endoscopy to diagnose.  He/She will insert an endoscope through the mouth and gently guide it into the esophagus. Then the doctor can see the lining of the esophagus and remove a small tissue sample to examine.

Treatment

Your doctor will take specific treatments based on your age and severity of the disease. Currently, there is no cure for Barrett’s esophagus. Thus, treatment is aimed at preventing further damage from occurring. Treatment may include:

  • Medication
    Medications such as H2 receptor antagonists and proton pump inhibitors may be prescribed by your doctor. They will reduce the amount of acid produced in the stomach.
  • Surgery
    Surgery to remove damaged tissue or a section of the esophagus may be necessary.
  • Dilation procedure
    If the damaged lining of the esophagus becomes thick and hardened, and the esophagus is narrowing, then you need the dilation procedure. During dilation, an instrument gently expands the opening of the esophagus.

Keywords: barrett esophagus; causes; symptoms; diagnosis; treatment

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