Barrett's esophagus is a disorder in which the lining of the esophagus is damaged by stomach acid. The lining becomes similar to that of the stomach.
When you eat, food passes from your throat to your stomach through the esophagus. The esophagus is also called the food pipe or swallowing tube. A ring of muscle fibers in the lower esophagus keeps stomach contents from moving backward.
If these muscles do not close tightly, harsh stomach acid can leak into the esophagus.This is called reflux or gastroesophageal reflux. It may cause tissue damage over time.
Barrett's esophagus occurs more often in men than women. People who have had GERD for a long time are more likely to have this condition.
Barrett's esophagus itself does not cause symptoms. The acid reflux that causes Barrett's esophagus often leads to symptoms of heartburn. However, many patients with this condition do not have symptoms.
Exams and Tests
The doctor may do an endoscopy if GERD symptoms are severe or come back after treatment.
A thin tube with a camera on the end is inserted through your mouth, then passed into your esophagus and stomach.
While looking at the esophagus with the endoscope, the doctor may perform biopsies in different parts of the esophagus. These biopsies help diagnose Barrett's esophagus, and look for changes that could lead to cancer.
People with Barrett's esophagus have an increased risk for esophageal cancer. However, cancer not common. Your health care provider may recommend a follow-up endoscopy to look for cell changes that indicate cancer.
TREATMENT OF GERD
Treatment should improve acid reflux symptoms, and may keep Barrett's esophagus from getting worse. Treatment may involve lifestyle changes and medicines such as:
American Gastroenterological Association Medical Position Statement on the Management of Barrett's Esophagus. Gastroenterology. 2011;140(3):1084-1091.
George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.