Barrett’s esophagus is a condition in which the lining of the esophagus is damaged, becoming more similar to that of the small intestine than that of the esophagus. The leading cause behind this condition is gastroesophageal reflux disease, causing an improper closure of the end of the esophagus and allowing stomach contents to return to the esophagus, irritating it. This condition increases the chances of having esophageal cancer, although the vast majority will not get it. In this FastlyHealarticle, we inform you about Barret’s esophagus’s symptoms, causes, and treatment.
Table of Contents
Can I get esophageal cancer?
Although most Barrett’s esophagus patients do not go on to develop cancer, there is the possibility that a minority of patients will create it. We must distinguish between two types of esophageal cancer: adenocarcinoma and squamous cell cancer. The latter is common in people who smoke or are used to drinking alcohol and is common in some regions of Asia and African-American people. On the other hand, esophageal adenocarcinoma is more common in people with GERD and in Caucasian men who are overweight. Although adenocarcinoma occurs more frequently in people with gastroesophageal reflux, the reality is that very few develop esophageal cancer. When the lining is modified to appear similar to that of the intestine, it is called Barrett’s esophagus, one of the first conditions in which esophageal cancer develops.
Causes and symptoms of Barret’s esophagus
As we have explained previously, gastric acid is responsible for causing damage to the esophagus. This tube carries food to the stomach and has a ring at the end that closes to prevent stomach contents from returning to the esophagus. People with Barrett’s esophagus suffer from gastroesophageal reflux because the latter round does not correctly complete the end of the esophagus, which can cause damage over time. Regarding the symptoms, Barrett’s esophagus is usually asymptomatic, although gastroesophageal reflux is the cause and can cause discomfort, such as heartburn. However, most patients do not witness any symptoms. Some of the typical signs of gastroesophageal acidity are:
- Nausea after meals.
- Burning pain in the chest.
- Feeling of obstruction of food behind the breastbone.
Other less common symptoms involve the return of food, trouble swallowing food, sore throat, hoarseness, hiccups, and coughing.
Barrett’s esophagus diagnosis
To diagnose Barrett’s esophagus, it is necessary to go to the doctor to carry out an examination that allows obtaining an image of the esophagus through an endoscopy. This procedure shows if there are any changes in the lining of the esophagus that indicate that the disease exists. In this article, you can see what a digestive endoscopy consists of. Another procedure to detect Barrett’s esophagus is through capsular endoscopy. The patient swallows a small video camera the size of a pill, allowing the esophagus’s interior to be observed to determine possible changes that alert the disease.
Although the risk of developing cancer after being diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus is low, it is a reason to go to the doctor for regular check-ups by endoscopy.
Barrett’s esophagus treatment
The drugs and surgery allow relieving symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux, despite not being able to cure the presence of Barrett’s esophagus nor prevent the patient from coming to suffer esophageal cancer. However, some medications destroy damaged tissue in the lining of the esophagus. It is common to carry out a treatment known as photodynamic therapy, used to destroy malignant cells by forming free radicals and eliminating bacteria. On the other hand, surgery is applied to remove the abnormal esophagus lining that causes the condition.
When to go to the doctor?
Having gastroesophageal acid is not unusual or considered out of the ordinary. However, a doctor should be consulted if Barret’s esophagus has already been previously diagnosed and symptoms worsen; in case of presenting new symptoms, such as weight loss or difficulty swallowing food; and if the heartburn does not stop for a few days, you feel pain or trouble drinking.
This article is merely informative. At FastlyHeal .com, we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor if you present any condition or discomfort.
If you want to read more articles similar to Barret’s esophagus: symptoms, causes, and treatment, we recommend entering our Digestive System category.
I am a Surgeon with a diploma in comprehensive ultrasound and surgical care residency, an area I am specializing in. During the exercise of my profession, I have realized the need for patients to know the diseases they suffer, and I can tell you that a large part of their complications is due to a lack of information. Being a health web writer allows me to transmit my experience, without borders, to all those readers eager for knowledge, educate them in the prevention of diseases and promote a healthy lifestyle.