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Barrett's Esophagus

Symptoms and Diagnosis | Treatment | For More Information

Repetitive acid damage to the esophagus lining from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may lead to a complication known as Barrett’s esophagus. This condition occurs when the normal cells that line the lower part of the esophagus (called squamous cells) are replaced by a different cell type (called intestinal cells). The intestinal cells of Barrett's esophagus are more resistant to acid damage than squamous cells, suggesting that these cells are developed to protect the esophagus from acid exposure. Barrett’s esophagus can develop into cancer in a small number (about 0.5%) of patients each year.

Factors that increase the chance of developing Barrett’s esophagus are:

  • patients suffering from acid reflux for longer than 5 years
  • Caucasian male over age 50
  • smoking

Barrett's Esophagus Symptoms and Diagnosis

Barrett’s esophagus is a silent disease. It has a small potential of progressing slowly with no symptoms until cancer develops. The goal is to regularly monitor the Barrett’s esophagus for any early precancerous changes and intervene before it evolves into esophageal cancer. With this in mind, people with Barrett’s esophagus should have endoscopy performed every three to five years to look for the development of precancerous changes.

Barrett's Esophagus Treatment

Most patients with Barrett’s esophagus will undergo endoscopy examinations on a regular basis to help monitor any progression of the disease.

If precancerous cells (dysplasia) develop, your physician may recommend radiofrequency (RF) therapy. This is an endoscopic procedure to destroy the precancerous cells in the esophagus lining and allows healthy cells to take their place.

For More Information

For more information on Barrett's esophagus symptoms and treatment or to schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist, please call 847.657.1900.