Barrett’s Esophagus

The esophagus is the long tube that is responsible for moving food from the throat to the stomach. Barrett’s esophagus is a condition that affects the esophagus and is a common problem for people who have long-term gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This condition changes the structure of the lining of the esophagus, transforming it so that it more closely resembles the lining of the intestine.

Causes of Barrett’s Esophagus

The exact cause of Barrett’s esophagus is not yet known. However, the condition is most often seen in people with GERD. If you have GERD symptoms for longer than 10 years, you have an increased risk of developing Barrett’s esophagus. However, other conditions, traits or habits may also play a role in raising your risk for this disease. These conditions are known as risk factors and include:

Non-modifiable risk factors: These factors are irreversible and cannot be changed. The more of these risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing this condition:

  • Family history/Genetics
  • Male gender
  • Caucasian race
  • Older age

Modifiable risk factors: These factors can be modified, treated or controlled through medications or lifestyle changes.

  • Long history of cigarette smoking and/or drug abuse
  • Obesity or having a body mass index “BMI” of 30 or greater
  • Excessive amounts of alcohol consumption over the years
  • Frequent use of aspirin or other NSAIDs
  • Eating large portions at meals
  • Eating too much saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol such as red meats, whole milk, egg yolks, butter, cheese, fried foods, and packaged foods.
  • Consumption of spicy foods
  • Going to bed or lying down less than four hours after eating

Other conditions that contribute to Barrett’s esophagus

  • H. pylori gastritis: a type of bacteria that infects and inflames the stomach’s lining

Symptoms of Barrett’s Esophagus

There are no specific symptoms associated with Barret’s esophagus. However, because most people with this condition also have GERD, they will usually experience similar symptoms, which include:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Vomiting blood, or vomit that resembles coffee grounds
  • Bloody stools

*It is important to know when this condition develops, it increases a person’s risk of esophageal cancer. This is because Barret’s esophagus can create dysplasia, which is a precancerous change that affects tissue. Most cases of Barrett’s esophagus do not lead to cancer, but it is still important to receive regular screenings so that your provider can catch it early.

Diagnosis of Barrett’s Esophagus

Your doctor will most likely perform a physical exam, ask about your symptoms, and ask about your risk factors, among others items. After that, you may have:

Diagnostic tests and procedures

Treatment of Barrett’s Esophagus

Barrett’s esophagus doesn’t have symptoms, so the goal of treatment is to slow its development and prevent the growth of precancerous dysplasia. This is usually achieved through dietary and lifestyle changes. Some treatment options include:

Lifestyle changes

  • Eat a heart-healthy diet
  • Avoid smoking
  • Avoid alcohol consumption
  • If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about weight loss options
  • Keep your body upright for three hours after eating
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Keep a regulated medication schedule
  • Sleep with your head elevated
  • Exercise under the directions of your doctor
  • Make and keep appointments to see your doctor for routine check-ups and follow-up tests.

Medications

  • Proton pump inhibitor will help with the treatment of heartburn and acid-related disorders.

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