Barrett’s esophagus is a more serious form of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), commonly known as heartburn. Of all people suffering from GERD, only 10-15% have the chance of getting Barrett disease.
Barrett’s esophagus is a condition in which the inner lining of the esophagus cells changes. Sometimes these cells develop dysplasia, which in turn may increase the risk of cancer of the esophagus.
Esophagus is a muscular pipe that helps in passing down the food to the stomach from our mouth. At the end of this pipe, there is LES (lower esophageal sphincter) whose job is to keep the stomach acid inside the stomach. When the LES fails to do its job, acid begins refluxing back to the pipe, causing heartburn, chest pain, and other complications.
Symptom that Indicates Barrett’s Disease Presence
Barrett disease has no specific symptoms. People with this condition experience the same symptoms associated with GERD. These are:
- Frequent heartburn
- Chronic chest pain especially when one lies down
- Difficulty in swallowing food
- Loss of appetite
- Sometimes bloody stools
When to see a Doctor?
Seek medical help immediately if:
- You are frequently experiencing heartburn for a considerable period of time
- There is chronic chest pain, which may be a symptom of a heart attack
- You are vomiting red blood
- You are experiencing difficulty while swallowing food
- You are passing tarry, black or bloody stools
The exact cause of this disease is not known, but we know that people with GERD are more likely than others to get this disease. However, many Barrett patients never experience heartburn or acid reflux before getting this disease.
People having Barrett’s esophagus are at slightly higher risk of developing esophageal cancer. The risk of cancer increases with greater dysplasia in the cells lining the esophagus. People who currently don’t have dysplasia can go on to develop it or people with low-degree dysplasia can in time develop high-degree dysplasia. That is why endoscopy at regular intervals is often advised to patients.
What you can do?
If you have been diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus, the following tips will help you manage the disease better:
- Take your medications as prescribed by your doctor and do not miss an appointment
- Inform your doctor about your medical history and any current medicines, prescribed or over the counter, that you are taking
- Undergo diagnostic tests as advised by your doctor
- Follow the dietary recommendations made by your doctor; quit smoking if you are a smoker and limit your alcohol intake or give it up completely, as advised by your doctor
- Get some exercises daily or at least on 4 to 5 days
- Eat light meals and finish your dinner a couple of hours before going to bed
- Learn to manage stress better as it can precipitate your condition
When dealing with Barrett’s disease, it is important to remember that the condition can be easily controlled if you take adequate steps. Maintaining this disease, in turn, is important otherwise it can lead to unwanted and serious complications.