Barrett’s esophagus: Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis and Treatment

GERD

Barrett’s esophagus is a disease in which the pink lining of the swallowing tube that links the mouth to the esophagus (stomach) becomes damaged by acid reflux, which causes the lining to become red and thicken.

Between the stomach and the esophagus is an important valve, the LES (Lower esophageal sphincter). Over time, the LES may start to fail, leading to chemical and acid damage of the esophagus, a gastroesophageal reflux disease condition (GERD). GERD is accompanied by symptoms such as regurgitation or heartburn. In some people, this GERD may trigger a change in the cells lining the lower esophagus, provoking Barrett’s esophagus.

Barrett’s esophagus happens when acid reflux or esophagitis is not checked. The regular cells that line the esophagus called squamous cells, turn into specific columnar cells through constant damage and inflammation. Columnar cells are not typically found in human beings and can turn cancerous.

Symptoms

The Barrett’s esophagus development is most often connected to long-standing GERD, which may include these symptoms and early signs:

  • Frequent regurgitation of stomach contents and heartburn
  • Difficulty swallowing food
  • Blood in Saliva while Coughing
  • Less commonly, chest pain
  • Dry cough
  • Constant Headache

Around half of the people diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus show little if any signs of acid reflux. So, it would help if you discussed your digestive health with your doctor regarding the occurrence of Barrett’s esophagus.

When to visit a doctor?

  • Have difficulty swallowing
  • Have chest pain, which may be a symptom of a heart attack
  • Are passing tarry, black, or bloody stools
  • Are vomiting red blood or blood that looks like coffee grounds
  • Are losing weight without diet or exercise. 

The specific cause of Barrett’s esophagus is unknown. While many people with Barrett’s esophagus have GERD, many have no reflux symptoms; a condition often called “silent reflux.”

Risk Factors

  1. Family history. Your probability of having Barrett’s esophagus grows if you have a family history of esophageal cancer or Barrett’s esophagus.
  2. Smokers are at a high chance of catching Barrett’s esophagus. 
  3. Age. Barrett’s esophagus can happen at any age but is more common in people over 50.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Endoscopy is used to see if you have Barrett’s esophagus.

Possible treatment include

  • Periodic endoscopy monitors the cells in your esophagus: If your biopsies present no dysplasia, you’ll perhaps have a follow-up endoscopy in one year and then every three to five years if no exchanges occur.
  • Treatment for GERD: Lifestyle changes and medication can ease your symptoms and signs. Endoscopy procedures or surgeries to correct a hiatal hernia or to tighten the deeper esophageal sphincter that checks the flow of stomach acid may be an option.

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