Barrett’s esophagus usually occurs in people suffering from chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. About 10 to 15 per cent people with chronic GERD suffer from this disorder. If left untreated, Barrett’s esophagus increases the risk of esophageal cancer.
What causes Barrett’s esophagus
In GERD, the stomach acid frequently flows into the esophagus. Excess exposure to stomach acid damages the esophagus. As the damaged esophagus undergoes the natural healing process, the composition and color of the cells present in the lining of the lower part of the esophagus change.
The cells in the esophagus now closely resemble the intestinal cells. People suffering from chronic heartburn or GERD for at least ten years have the greatest risk of developing Barrett’s esophagus.
The risk is greater among men of European origin and in older adults. In a small number of Barrett’s esophagus patients, the disease occurs without chronic acid reflux.
Symptoms of Barrett’s esophagus
There are no specific symptoms of Barrett’s esophagus. The symptoms are same as that of chronic acid reflux. Frequent heartburn, chest pain, burning or sour sensation in the throat, difficulty in swallowing food, nausea, laryngitis, chronic cough, vomiting blood and black stools are common signs of Barrett’s esophagus. However, symptoms of the disease are absent if Barrett’s esophagus occurs without GERD.
Barrett’s esophagus treatment
Progression of Barrett’s esophagus could be arrested by controlling acid reflux. Modification in diet helps to reduce frequent heartburn. People suffering from this esophageal disorder should avoid foods that worsen acid reflux.
Fatty foods, spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol and peppermint are not safe for people suffering from GERD and Barrett’s esophagus. The risk of acid reflux could be reduced by losing excess body weight. People prone to heartburn should have their meals at least three hours before going to bed.
Elevating the head of the bed while sleeping could prevent the stomach acid from moving upwards into the esophagus. Remember to drink plenty of water while taking your medicines.
Taking antacids, as recommended by your physician could prevent heartburn. To reduce formation of stomach acids, your physician might prescribe H2 blockers.
Drugs that increase the speed of transportation of foods from the stomach to the intestine are often recommended to treat this condition. Surgery to remove the damaged esophageal cells is recommended to prevent esophageal cancer.