The esophagus is a thin, muscular tube that connects the stomach and throat. Long-standing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause tissue changes in the lining of the esophagus. This can leave you more susceptible to developing esophageal cancer, in addition to a number of other physical changes. The pre-cancerous condition is known as Barret’s esophagus.
What Is Barret’s Esophagus?
Barrett’s esophagus is a condition in which the tissue that lines the esophagus is replaced with precancerous cells. This happens due to the chronic regurgitation of stomach acid from GERD. Barrett’s esophagus does not always lead to cancer, but it can increase one’s risk of developing it. Accordingly, anyone with GERD should be checked for this condition on a regular basis.
What Are The Common Symptoms?
In many cases, the symptoms of Barrett’s esophagus are very similar to that of GERD and may include heartburn and chest pain. Accordingly, many patients may not even know that they have developed it. More serious symptoms can develop as the condition progresses, including:
• Pain or difficulty swallowing
• Vomiting blood
• Black, bloody, or tarry stools
• A burning sensation in the back of your throat
• A chronic cough
• Frequent laryngitis
How Is Barret’s Esophagus Treated?
Those with Barrett’s esophagus should avoid alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco. Losing weight can also minimize GERD symptoms, thereby reducing the effects of Barrett’s esophagus. Certain medications such as protein pump inhibitors may be used to treat the condition. Surgical procedures to destroy abnormal cells or even part of the esophagus may be required in some cases as well.