Barrett’s esophagus is a condition in which the tissue lining the esophagus changes, becoming more like the tissue lining the intestine. This change is thought to be caused by exposure to stomach acid, which occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) does not function properly. It is a complication of GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease. Barrett’s esophagus is a serious condition because it increases the risk of esophageal cancer. It is diagnosed through an endoscopy and can be treated through medications or surgery.
What are the symptoms of Barrett’s esophagus?
This condition is often attributed to long-standing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is a condition in which stomach contents—including acid and bile—flow backward from the stomach into the esophagus. Over time, this backward flow of stomach contents may damage the esophageal lining, causing it to change. Symptoms of Barrett’s esophagus may include
- Frequent Heartburn
- Difficulty Swallowing Food
- Chest Pain
However, approximately half of the people diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus do not have any symptoms of GERD. Early diagnosis and treatment of Barrett’s esophagus are essential, as the condition can progress to cancer of the esophagus.
How do doctors detect Barrett’s esophagus?
Doctors typically detect Barrett’s esophagus through an endoscopy, which is a procedure that uses a thin, flexible tube with a camera on its end to view the inside of the esophagus. During an endoscopy, your doctor may also take tissue samples from the esophagus for further testing. If you have Barrett’s esophagus, your doctor will likely recommend additional testing and follow-up visits to monitor the condition. If left untreated, Barrett’s esophagus can lead to cancer of the esophagus.
However, treatment options are available and effective, so it is essential to catch the condition early. If you are experiencing symptoms such as heartburn or trouble swallowing, talk to your doctor about getting an endoscopy to check for Barrett’s esophagus.
What are the treatment options for Barrett’s esophagus?
Barrett’s esophagus is a condition in which the tissue lining the esophagus changes, becoming more like the tissue lining the intestine. This change is often caused by exposure to stomach acid, which can occur when the muscle separating the stomach and esophagus is weak or damaged. Barrett’s esophagus can lead to severe complications, including cancer of the esophagus.
The first line of treatment for Barrett’s esophagus is usually medication. Medications can help reduce stomach acid and prevent further damage to the esophagus. In some cases, surgery may also be recommended to remove damaged tissue or to strengthen the muscle separating the stomach and esophagus. With early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, Barrett’s esophagus can be effectively managed.
In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove damaged tissue. The type of surgery will depend on the extent of the damage. For instance, endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR) may be used to remove small areas of abnormal tissue. A more extensive surgery, such as an esophagectomy, may be required if a larger area is affected. Surgery carries its own risks, so it should only be considered if other treatments have been ineffective. However, surgery may be the best option for some people with Barrett’s esophagus to prevent cancer.
Living with Barrett’s esophagus
Diagnosis of Barrett’s esophagus can be alarming, but it’s important to remember that this condition does not necessarily mean you will develop cancer. However, Barrett’s esophagus could increase your risk for esophageal cancer, so protecting your health is essential.
Be sure to see your doctor regularly for checkups and endoscopies. These appointments will help catch any changes in your condition early. It’s also crucial to avoid foods that trigger heartburn and quit smoking if you smoke. These measures can help reduce your risk of developing cancer and improve your overall health.
How can I prevent Barrett’s esophagus?
There is no sure way to prevent Barrett’s esophagus, but you can help reduce your risk by avoiding stomach acid reflux. This means avoiding foods and beverages that trigger heartburn and taking medications to reduce stomach acid production. You should also see your doctor regularly for checkups and endoscopies if you have Barrett’s esophagus to monitor the condition and ensure that you receive the best possible treatment. You can live a normal and healthy life with Barrett’s esophagus with proper treatment and care.
If you want to learn more about Barrett’s esophagus or other gastrointestinal diseases, don’t hesitate to contact us to schedule an appointment.