Barrett’s Esophagus Risks

Barrett’s Esophagus Risks are those factors that affect your chances of getting this disease. Risk factors can be divided into two: controllable and uncontrollable. You cannot do much about uncontrollable risk factors, like age, so the focus must solely be on controllable factors, like smoking.

The risk factors for Barrett’s Esophagus are:

  • Age – Barrett’s Esophagus is seen more in adult population than young.
  • Gender – As compared to women, men have a higher chance of developing Barrett’s Esophagus.
  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) – People who have GERD are at a greater risk of Barrett’s Esophagus. The risk is significantly higher in people who are above 50 years, have GERD for at least last 5 years, and are taking medication to control their GERD. The risk is also higher than normal in people who are of 30 years of age or less and suffer from chronic GERD develops.
  • Tobacco and Alcohol – Smoking increases risk to various conditions, including Barrett’s esophagus. High alcohol consumption can cause damage to the esophagus, making it more prone to GERD and further complications.
  • Obesity – Excess body fat around the abdomen is another Barrett’s esophagus risks that one can control. You must try to reduce your body weight if you are obese or overweight as it increases your risk to many health conditions, including Barrett’s Esophagus.

How to Manage Barrett’s Esophagus if diagnosed with it

Barrett’s esophagus diagnosis is done through endoscopy. Once the condition is diagnosed, depending on the severity of your condition, your doctor may prescribe you certain medicines. He or she may also ask to take certain over-the-counter acid suppressants for some time. Prescribed medicines for this condition include proton pump inhibitors (acid suppressing drugs), h-2 receptors antagonists, and non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs.

Apart from the medicines, there are certain lifestyle changes that should be done. Like having fiber rich and healthy foods, avoiding alcohol, carbonated drinks, high fat foods etc., doing light exercises daily and managing stress.

Barrett’s Esophagus & Cancer of the Esophagus

The risk of esophageal cancer in people having Barrett’s disease is quite less but constant endoscopies need to be done in order to check the progression of the disease. In case your doctor suspects dysplasia (abnormal growth) in cells of the esophageal lining, he or she may recommend biopsy. In biopsy, a sample of tissue is extracted from the body (in this case it will be taken from the esophagus) and examined in laboratory. Biopsy is done when doctors suspect an area of tissue to be abnormal.

Presence of dysplasia however doesn’t mean you have cancer. Dysplasia is a condition in abnormal growth is seen in tissue in esophagus. It is classified as low and high grade.

Treatment of low grade dysplasia is not different from normal Barrett’s esophagus cases. It focuses mainly on medications and healthy diet. Such patients may be asked to undergo an endoscopy every year to check how dysplasia in their esophageal cells is behaving.

High grade dysplasia, however, significantly increases the risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma (cancer of the esophagus). Generally, the treatment options for esophageal cancer include medications, endoscopic mucosal resection, endoscopic ablative therapies and surgery.

Though the actual causes of Barrett’s disease are not known yet, healthy lifestyle changes can contribute a lot in preventing the onset of the disease.