5 Things You Should Know about Barrett’s Esophagus

09. 06. 2016

Barrett’s esophagus is a complication of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. When acid from the stomach repeatedly rises into the esophagus, the tissues of the esophagus become damaged and undergo changes to resemble the lining of the intestine. Although Barrett’s esophagus is somewhat uncommon, it is a serious condition that requires regular screening. Here are five things you need to know about Barrett’s esophagus:

It affects men more than women

Only five to 10 percent of individuals with GERD will go on to develop Barrett’s esophagus. However, this condition affects men almost twice as often as women, and it is most often seen in individuals over the age of 50. Besides age and gender, other risk factors of Barrett’s esophagus include ethnicity (Caucasians are at greater risk), smoking, obesity, and having H pylori gastritis.

It has no unique symptoms

Barrett’s esophagus itself causes no symptoms, but patients with Barrett’s esophagus often experience symptoms associated with GERD such as heartburn, chest or abdominal pain, nausea, and difficulty swallowing (Source: Healthline).

It causes cellular changes

The esophagus is normally lined with thin, flat cells called squamous cells. In individuals with Barrett’s esophagus, goblet cells – which normally line the intestines – develop in the lining of the esophagus.

It’s a precursor for cancer

Although it is extremely rare, a small percentage of individuals with Barrett’s esophagus will go on to develop esophageal adenocarcinoma, a potentially fatal form of esophageal cancer.

It requires ongoing evaluation

Due to the increased risk of cancer, patients with Barrett’s esophagus should have routine examinations of the esophagus. When conducted on a routine basis, these exams can detect the presence of cancerous or precancerous cells before they have the opportunity to spread.

Barrett’s esophagus is a serious condition, but with early detection and routine follow-ups, it can be managed. If you currently experience ongoing symptoms of GERD, schedule a consult with your doctor or gastroenterologist. You may need a simple test called an upper endoscopy to rule out Barrett’s esophagus or other digestive conditions.


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Ask the Expert: MoreThanHeartburn Talks to Dr. Doug K. Pleskow about Barrett’s Esophagus

Do Men and Women Experience Heartburn Differently?

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