Barrett's esophagus refers to a condition in which the composition of the cells and color of the passage between the pharynx (esophagus) and the stomach is changed. This condition is usually caused by excessive stomach acid. The people who suffer from gastro esophageal reflux disease or GERD will in some cases develop Barrett's esophagus.
The symptoms of Barrett's esophagus can be difficulties while swallowing food, pain in the chest and heartburn, dark stool and vomiting blood, but there sometimes the patient does not have any symptoms. The precise cause of Barrett's esophagus is unknown. When the acid from the stomach returns to the esophagus, it causes damage to the tissue and the cells change.
If you have had excessive stomach acid for a very long time, you are at risk of suffering from Barrett's esophagus. It occurs more often in elderly males, especially white or Hispanic.
In order to diagnose the condition the doctor can examine the esophagus by using a tube with a small camera which is slide to the esophagus through the mouth or by removing a tiny part of the tissue which is examined in laboratory. The severity of the condition depends on the degree of damage in the cells.
The treatment depends on the severity of the condition. Some of the treatments include removal of the affected cells, removal of the damaged tissue with heat and eliminating affected cells with a special light therapy. Also the surgery can be performed when a part of the esophagus is removed and the rest of it is attached to the stomach. This surgery is usually the last option because there are risks of complications, such as infections, bleedings and leaking from the spot where the esophagus and stomach are connected.
If your doctor diagnosed the Barrett's esophagus, you should also make some lifestyle changes. It is recommended to eat healthy and to keep your weight normal, to eat more frequently but smaller amounts of food, to avoid cigarettes and alcohol. In addition, try to avoid bending over too much, do not go to bed after a meal and keep your head as higher as possible while you are in bed. These measures will prevent the acid from getting in the esophagus.
The complication of Barrett's esophagus can be esophagus cancer. The cancer occurs in extremely rare cases and the patient who visits the doctor regularly and controls his/her health is in no risk of getting the esophagus cancer.