What is Barrett's Esophagus?
If you’ve been diagnosed with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), a condition that causes heartburn, and you don’t get the condition properly treated you could end up dealing with a serious health problem known as Barrett’s esophagus. Barrett’s esophagus occurs when chronic inflammation alters the lining of the esophagus so much so that it begins to mimic the lining of the intestines.
Those with GERD will experience frequent and severe heartburn symptoms. They may develop a chronic cough or persistent experience bouts of laryngitis (inflammation of the larynx that causes hoarseness). Whenever you eat food it should pass through the esophagus and enter the stomach where stomach acid is produced to break the food down.
Unfortunately, when you have GERD the stomach acid and food travel back through the esophagus, causing the burning and gnawing chest pain you experience. If you deal with heartburn several times throughout the week it’s important that you turn to a GI specialist who can help you figure out what’s going on and to control GERD so that you don’t face Barrett’s esophagus in the future.
Of course, GERD isn’t the only reason Barrett’s esophagus happens and if you have GERD it also doesn’t necessarily mean that you will develop this problem. Some factors that can contribute to Barrett’s esophagus include being male, being over the age of 50, smoking, having been diagnosed with a hiatal hernia, having GERD at a young age and being overweight.
In order to properly diagnose this condition, we will need to perform an endoscopy to be able to view the lining of the esophagus. We may also need to take a biopsy, in which we collect a small sampling of tissue from the esophagus for testing. It’s important to test for Barrett’s esophagus as this condition can become cancerous, so careful monitoring from a gastroenterologist is important for early diagnosis and treatment.
If you do have Barrett’s esophagus it will be important to alter your diet to prevent further irritation of the esophagus. You’ll want to eliminate alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, chocolate, caffeine and fatty foods from your diet. If you are overweight, losing weight can also reduce acid reflux symptoms.
In most cases, our doctor will prescribe medication to target and reduce acid reflux. Some medications work to reduce how much acid the stomach produces while other medications neutralize the acid. We will talk to you about the best medication to help you control your symptoms. Sometimes laser therapy or surgery is required to kill any abnormal or cancerous cells that are present in the esophageal lining.
If you are dealing with Barrett’s esophagus or issues related to GERD, don’t hesitate to call one of our gastroenterology offices at (708) 475-5233 in Oak Lawn, Joliet or New Lenox, IL. Also serving patients throughout Frankfort, Orland Park and Burr Ridge, IL.