Barrett's esophagus is a medical condition in which the tissue that lines the esophagus is replaced by tissue that is similar to the lining of the intestines. Barrett's esophagus is the result of long-term exposure to stomach acid, most often due to gastrointestinal reflux disease, also known as GERD. The lining of the esophagus changes color and composition, and patients may develop cellular abnormalities, known as dysplasia. Patients with Barrett's esophagus may be prone to developing esophageal adenocarcinoma, a cancer of the esophagus.
Symptoms of Barrett's Esophagus
Most patients with Barrett's esophagus do not experience any symptoms. However, it most often affects those with gastroesophageal reflux disease, and, as a result, the following symptoms may be present:
- Chronic heartburn
- Chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing food
- Weight loss
- Vomiting blood
Diagnosis of Barrett's Esophagus
The diagnosis of Barrett's esophagus is made after an upper endoscopy, known as a esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD), is performed, and a biopsy of a tissue sample from the area in question has been taken.
Treatment of Barrett's Esophagus
Treatment for Barrett's esophagus depends on the severity of the condition, and the overall health of the patient. Treatment may include simply monitoring the condition with regularly scheduled EGDs, and continued treatment for GERD. For others, endoscopic therapy may be performed to remove the damaged cells by using methods that include ablation, cryotherapy or photodynamic therapy. Surgery to remove the esophagus, known as esophagectomy, is another treatment option.