What is Barrett’s esophagus?
Barrett’s esophagus is a condition in which normal cells that line the esophagus, called squamous cells, turn into cells not usually found in humans, called specialized columnar cells. This process is called intestinal metaplasia because the specialized columnar cells are similar to the lining of the intestine. Damage to the lining of the esophagus causes the cells to change. Less than 1 percent of people with this condition develop cancer of the esophagus. However, having Barrett’s esophagus may increase the risk of developing esophageal cancer.
What causes Barrett’s esophagus?
Barrett’s esophagus develops in some people who have chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus). It is believed that damage to the lining of the esophagus, caused by these conditions, causes these abnormal cell changes.
People who have had long-standing heartburn are at risk for Barrett’s esophagus and should discuss this with their physician.
Treatment for Barrett’s esophagus:
Specific treatment for Barrett’s esophagus will be determined by your physician based on:
- your age, overall health, and medical history
- extent of the disease
- your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- expectations for the course of this disease
- your opinion or preference
Currently, there is no cure for Barrett’s esophagus. Once the cells in the esophageal lining have been replaced by columnar cells, they will not revert back to normal. Thus, treatment is aimed at preventing further damage from occurring by stopping acid reflux from the stomach. Treatment may include: