Michelle Badash, MS
The esophagus is a tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. Chronic esophagitis is inflammation of the esophagus. Barrett's esophagus is a complication of chronic esophagitis.
Barrett's esophagus is a change in the cells that line the esophagus. Normal cells are flat-shaped squamous cells. Barrett's esophagus cells are shaped like a column. This cell change is called
metaplasia. It is a premalignant phase that may result in esophageal cancer if it is not treated.
The exact cause of Barrett's esophagus is not known. It may result from damage to the esophagus caused by the chronic reflux of stomach acid. Frequent or chronic reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus is called
gastroesophageal reflux disease
Barrett's esophagus is more common in Caucasian men and in people aged 50 years and older. Other factors that may increase your chance of Barrett's esophagus include:
In some cases Barrett's esophagus may not produce symptoms.
Some people with GERD may have the following symptoms:
More serious symptoms include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. In order to diagnose Barrett's esophagus, your doctor may recommend an upper GI endoscopy with a biopsy.
The cell changes from Barrett's esophagus are permanent once they occur. Talk to your doctor about the best treatment options for you. Treatment may include:
Your doctor may recommend the proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). PPIs help control GERD symptoms and
prevent further damage to the esophagus.
Your doctor may recommend surgery if the disease is severe or the medication is not helpful. Surgical options may include:
A part of the upper stomach is wrapped around the esophagus. This is done to reduce further damage caused by GERD.
Endoscopic eradication destroys the Barrett's cells in the esophagus. Eventually, the body starts making normal esophageal cells where the Barrett's cells used to be. The most common endoscopic eradication procedures include:
This procedure removes the part of the esophagus that has the Barrett's. The esophagus reconstructed using a part of the stomach or large intestine.
Your doctor may recommend endoscopy from every 3 months-5 years depending on how abnormal the cells in your esophagus look.
The best way to prevent Barrett's esophagus is to reduce and/or treat the reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus. This is usually caused by GERD. Self-care measures for GERD include:
If you have GERD and at a high risk for Barrett's, talk to your doctor about a screening schedule.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
The Society of Thoracic Surgeons
GI Society—Canadian Society of Intestinal Research
Barrett esophagus. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115861/Barrett-esophagus. Updated January 18, 2016. Accessed September 15, 2016.
Barrett's esophagus. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at:
http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/barretts-esophagus/Pages/overview.aspx. Updated January 22, 2013. Accessed April 30, 2013.
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Last reviewed March 2016 by Daus Mahnke, MD
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