what is barrett’s esophagus?

Barrett’s Esophagus may sound like an instrument played in a band, but I assure you it is not musical, fun, or poetic. In fact, doctors are kind of stumped on what the dang thing is anyway. One thing they do know is that Barrett’s Esophagus is a serious complication of GERD. GERD is a chronic digestive disease that occurs when stomach acid trails back into your food pipe (esophagus) and the backwash aggravates the lining of your esophagus and causes GERD.

What are the symptoms?

So now we know that Barrett’s Esophagus is a severe problem of GERD, which actually means gastroesophageal reflux disease (I know, you could have gone the rest of your life without hearing that word.) On the other hand, these over-rated terms might just save your life. The thing is, Barrett’s Esophagus does not have any specific symptoms, so that’s a tricky one, but his cousin, acid reflux disease, does possess some unhealthy attributes like heartburn, indigestion, abdomen pain, nausea after eating and even regurgitation.

Is it dangerous?

In Barrett’s Esophagus, you have the tube (esophagus) in your body that carries food from the mouth to the stomach, and normal tissue lining of the esophagus may begin to alter to appear like the lining of the intestine. Now around ten percent of people can develop chronic symptoms of GERD and develop Barrett’s Esophagus. Patients with Barrett’s Esophagus have a chance of developing esophageal adenocarcinoma (just as unpleasant as it sounds) because it’s a possible fatal cancer of the esophagus. However, on a brighter note, the disease is rare with less than one percent of people with Barrett’s Esophagus possessing this type of cancer.

How will I know if I have Barrett’s Esophagus?

As with GERD, which is related to Barrett’s Esophagus, silent reflux symptoms tend to affect the larynx, as opposed to the esophagus. Often times doctors may overlook silent reflux because it has similar symptoms like post nasal drip, a lump in the throat, hoarseness or a persistent cough that many other diseases may contain. And for that reason, it is highly-recommended that you consult with a specialist to discover if you have silent reflux. It is often misdiagnosed and affects close to fifty million Americans today. The back flow of stomach acid and digestive enzymes (pepsin) will cause a lot of damage to your esophagus, which can cause cancer.

It is important to note that anyone can develop Barrett’s Esophagus, but white males who have had a history of dealing with GERD are more prone to acquire it. GERD does not always cause Barrett’s Esophagus, but a person who has had it for a long time is at a higher risk. If you have symptoms resembling trouble swallowing, blood in your stool, persistent symptoms despite medical therapy, or new chest pain, it would be advised that you should discuss these symptoms with your doctor and have an endoscopic examination.

By Preston Copeland

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