Answers to common questions
Barrett’s Esophagus is a condition in which normal cells lining the esophagus turn into abnormal cells (called intestinal metaplasia).
- Occurs in patients with persistent Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) commonly referred to as “heartburn”
- Up to 10% of all Americans have daily reflux symptoms
- Barrett’s Esophagus affects 700,000 adults in America
- It carries a risk of cancer and must be monitored
Who Gets It?
- People with long-standing, persistent and severe GERD
- About 10% of patients with GERD develop Barrett’s Esophagus
- Smoking, obesity, eating meals close to bed time, fatty foods and caffeine are all related to GERD which can result in Barrett’s Esophagus
What Are The Symptoms?
- Barrett’s itself has no signs or symptoms
- Signs and symptoms are generally related to reflux (“heartburn”) that causes Barrett’s
- Sometimes people get narrowing of the esophagus due to the reflux and can have difficulty swallowing
How Is It Detected/Diagnosed?
- Barrett’s can only be diagnosed using endoscopy (Esophagogastroduodenoscopy or EGD)
- Endoscopy is placing a tube with a camera and light down the throat to view the inside of the esophagus
- Biopsies or tissue samples must be taken for a pathologist to examine
How Is It Treated?
- Changing one’s diet and habits to reduce the chance of reflux is necessary
- Medications to reduce or block acid production
- In some severe cases surgery is necessary to stop reflux
- Repeat follow-up with EGD is necessary for all people with Barrett’s
- If the Barrett’s has dysplasia (pre-cancerous changes), as determined by a pathologist examining the tissue, then increased frequency of follow-up is necessary and additional measures may be required depending on the degree (grade) and extent of dysplasia
Other Useful Resources
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This publication is intended for patient education and information only. It does not constitute advice, nor should it be taken to suggest or replace professional medical care from your physician. Your treatment options may vary, depending upon your medical history and current condition.