The Risks of Barretts Esophagus

The risk of barrett’s disease increases if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Although the vast majority of GERD patients don’t go on to develop Barrett’s esophagus, 10 to 15% such patients do.

GERD is a problem caused by acid reflux and its most common symptom is heart burn. By making few alterations in diet, a person can bring down the risk of developing GERD and Barrett’s disease.

The following factors increase the risk of barrett’s:

  • Age – Barrett’s esophagus is more common among adults
  • Gender – Men are at a higher risk of developing this disease as compared to women
  • Obesity – Being overweight increases your chances of having GERD. Barrett’s esophagus is more common in people with GERD.
  • Smoking – Excessive cigarette smoking and drinking alcohol puts a person at a greater risk to barrett’s disease.

How a Person Develops Barrett’s Disease?

GERD patients have a higher risk of developing Barrett’s Esophagus. With that said, not all GERD patients suffer from Barrett’s disease in time. As a matter of fact, most GERD patients never develop this gastrointestinal complication. Usually only severe and chronic GERD patients develop it.

Barrett’s esophagus is a condition in which a person’s esophageal lining cells change and take form of the intestinal cells. In GERD the stomach acid refluxes upwards, causing irritation to the esophagus. When GERD is frequent, long-term, and severe, changes in esophageal lining cells occur. These cells start looking like the cells that are seen in the lining of the stomach, which by nature are not affected when they come in contact with the stomach acid.

What is Dysplasia?

Dysplasia by definition means abnormal growth. Some Barrett’s Esophagus patients show dysplasia. If your doctor suspects dysplasia, he may order a biopsy. The biopsy report will tell if indeed dysplasia is present and its severity.

Treatment for low-grade dysplasia is not different than for regular non-dysplasia Barrett’s Esophagus. It focuses mainly on acid-suppressing drugs, a healthy diet, and a healthy lifestyle. However, in case of low-grade dysplasia, your doctor may ask you to go endoscopy at regular intervals to ensure its severity is not increasing. Patients with low-grade dysplasia don’t have a much increased risk of cancer of the esophagus.

High-grade dysplasia, on the other hand, significantly increases the risk of esophageal cancer. Treatment in this case is more aggressive and revolves around endoscopic resection, esophagectomy, radiofrequency ablation, and photodynamic therapy.

What are the Remedies to Decrease the Risks of Barretts Esophagus?

Medicines and surgery are two common ways of treating barretts syndrome but neither of them can reverse the presence of barretts esophagus. Good news, however, is that certain lifestyle changes can definitely help control the situation and lessen a person’s chances of getting esophageal cancer.

  • Diet Recommendation – Fruits rich in antioxidants, steamed or boiled vegetables, low fat milk, yogurt and whole grain products (rice, breads, pasta etc) should be eaten to avoid acid reflux problem.
  • What to Avoid – Citrus fruits like pineapples, oranges, tomatoes and spices should be avoided by a person suffering from chronic heart burn or acid reflux problem. Caffeine, carbonated drinks, chocolate and alcohol also aggravate the symptoms of barrett’s disease.

Along with making dietary changes and following medications, a person should get some physical exercise daily.