Barrett’s esophagus is a condition in which the tissue that lines your esophagus — the tube that carries food from your throat to your stomach — resembles intestinal cells instead of normal esophageal cells.
These tissue changes are often linked to disorders such as acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a severe form of acid reflux. As many as 15% of people with GERD develop Barrett’s esophagus.
Because Barrett’s esophagus can increase your risk of developing esophageal cancer, it’s important to know if you have it. As a general, bariatric, and laparoscopic surgeon, Michael Sutker, MD, is an expert in diagnosing and treating acid reflux as well as Barrett’s esophagus.
Here’s what you need to know about Barrett’s esophagus.
While Barrett’s esophagus causes tissue changes in your esophagus, you won’t necessarily know if the tissue has changed.
In other words, Barrett's esophagus doesn’t cause any outward signs that you can see without testing. That being said, you can spot the signs of heartburn and acid regurgitation — two GERD symptoms that can contribute to Barrett’s esophagus.
Signs of GERD include:
Having unmanaged GERD can lead to Barrett’s esophagus, which is why it’s important to seek treatment for GERD if you suspect you have it.
Barrett’s esophagus is diagnosed with an endoscopy. During this procedure, Dr. Sutker slides a thin tube (with a camera) down your throat. Normally, your esophagus is pale in color. However, if the tissue is red and/or velvety in appearance, you might have Barrett’s esophagus.
A biopsy can confirm the degree of dysplasia (cellular changes). No dysplasia means that your esophageal cells have no precancerous changes, even if you have Barrett's esophagus. Low-grade dysplasia means that some precancerous cellular changes have taken place.
If you have Barrett’s esophagus, it’s important to monitor for any esophageal changes. It’s equally important to manage your GERD symptoms. Potential treatments include:
The LINX procedure involves the placement of a small device just above your stomach that prevents stomach contents from flowing back up into your esophagus.
GERD isn’t the only risk factor for Barrett’s esophagus. Obesity also increases your risk due to increased proinflammatory cytokines, small proteins that increase inflammation. Losing weight can help lower your risk of developing Barrett’s esophagus and reduce acid reflux symptoms. Additionally, patients with obesity and reflux may benefit significantly from a gastric bypass.
If you’re struggling to manage acid reflux or GERD, reach out to the office of Michael Sutker, MD. Not only can we help you find relief from your symptoms, but we can also treat complications of acid reflux, such as Barrett’s esophagus.
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