Barrett's Esophagus

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What is Barrett's esophagus?

Barrett’s esophagus is a complication of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Barrett’s esophagus occurs when the normal tissue that lines the esophagus changes to resemble the tissue that lines your intestines. Even though the risk of esophageal cancer increases with those who have Barrett’s esophagus the risk of getting cancer from Barrett’s esophagus is less than 1%. If you or a loved one has GERD then please maintain regular appointments with a local gastroenterologist to monitor your condition and watch for signs of Barrett's esophagus. You can find a local gastroenterologist through GI Alliance.

Who gets Barrett’s esophagus?

The primary risk factor for Barrett’s esophagus is long-term untreated gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Not everyone that has GERD develops Barrett’s esophagus but if the acid reflux is not managed, over time it is likely that someone will develop Barrett’s. Factors of higher risk include:

  • Being a male
  • Being a caucasian
  • Being over age 50
  • Having large amounts of abdominal fat
  • Genetics
  • Smoking or having been a smoker

Symptoms of Barrett’s esophagus

There are no specific symptoms associated with the tissue change of Barrett’s esophagus. Many times, people with Barrett’s esophagus do not have any signs or symptoms.

If you have been experiencing acid reflux or other similar symptoms for long periods of time, we suggest consulting and being tested by your gastroenterologist. The only sure method to know if you have Barrett’s esophagus is to do a front-end endoscopy and run a biopsy of the tissue in your esophagus.

Common symptoms associated with Barrett’s esophagus:

  • Persistent heartburn (acid reflux)
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chest pain (less common)

What are the treatments for Barrett’s esophagus?

Treatment for Barrett’s esophagus is unique to other gastrointestinal conditions. The type of treatment you receive depends on the degree of abnormal cell growth, known as dysplasia, in your esophagus.

The different degrees of dysplasia (abnormal cell growth) and possible treatments are:

  • No dysplasia- Even if no precancerous cells are present, it is still important to schedule regular endoscopies with your gastroenterologist to check for changes in precancerous tissues. Your physician will also most likely recommend treatments similar to those who have GERD (such as lifestyle changes, or medication).
  • Low-grade dysplasia- With a low amount of abnormal cell growth you can expect to receive endoscopic resection or radiofrequency ablation for treatment.
  • High-grade dysplasia- For a greater amount of precancerous tissue, cryotherapy, photodynamic therapy, or surgery might be necessary.
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Help and hope for Barrett's esophagus

If you have GERD, then going without treatment can lead to Barrett's esophagus. This serious but treatable complication of GERD can be diagnosed and managed by an expert gastroenterologist. To locate a gastroenterologist who can help partner with you to treat your GI tract conditions, like Barrett's esophagus, then contact the experts in gastroenterology at GI Alliance. As the nation's largest physician-led network of gastroenterologists, GI Alliance has the leading experts in conditions like Barrett's esophagus. Contact GI Alliance to find your expert in digestive health today.

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Dr Rakvit is a great doctor with awesome bedside manners! I feel like she goes above and beyond her scope in making sure that you fully understand what is going on. Dr Rakvit answers all your questions, and I feel she talks to you in a professional manner that allows you understand. I feel that Dr. Rakvit really is there for you… and she super sweet too! The office staff is wonderful, from the front staff to the back staff! And I feel that Dr Rakvit’s nurse is awesome!!! And if you need to have an EGD or colonoscopy, they have their procedure area next door for easy scheduling. The procedure area staff is also very nice and efficient! High five to all of the LDDA doctors & office staff!!! You all rock!!!

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