What is Barrett's Esophagus?
by N J Howell
I had never heard of this health challenge until an acquaintance of mine mentioned that her husband, after going through a battery of medical tests, was told that he might have Barrett's Esophagus.
There isn't as much information on this condition as is available on related conditions, GERD and Acid Reflux Disease. Simply put, Barrett's Esophagus is a secondary complication of pre-existing conditions and is caused when the muscles in the stomach that are responsible for keeping stomach acid where it belongs do not work properly. When the stomach muscles allow stomach acid to leak back into the esophagus, the lining of the esophagus becomes damaged. If high grade dysplasia is noted, then the situation becomes pre-cancerous and bears more attention by your doctors.
People who develop Barrett's first develop GERD or acid reflux. Symptoms associated with those pre-existing conditions are what usually brings them to the doctor in the first place.
Esophageal Cancer Concerns Addressed:
It can be a little confusing to determine where Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD, stops and Barrett's Esophagus begins. For example, the same medications are sometimes prescribed for both conditions. Also, a person who develops Barrett's Esophagus first developed either GERD or acid reflux. So when does GERD birth this secondary health condition?
Over time, the acid which chronically backs up into the esophagus with both these conditions actually begins to change the esophageal lining. It is the chronic effect of stomach acids bathing the esophageal lining that changes the esophageal lining, even the color of it. Instead of the normal pink color associated with a healthy esophagus, the lining becomes a deeper color, often described as salmon-colored. This change is a result of the body attempting to protect the esophagus from stomach acids.
Though the stomach can handle these acids and indeed some stomach acids are needed for proper digestive processes, the esophagus cannot handle them and attempts to protect by changing it's lining to resist further acid damage.
At this point, the person with GERD may be told they also have Barrett's Esophagus. The changed, damaged lining of the esophagus now may put the patient at risk for developing high grade dysplasia and could lead to esophageal cancer if left untreated.
Most diagnosed with this type of cancer are over the age of 50, and male. Women can also get this condition but men are more likely to develop it.
What is High Grade Dysplasia? In researching this term, my best understanding is that high grade dysplasia indicates abnormal growth in cells that is considered to be pre-cancerous. more on high grade dysplasia and Barrett's esophagus
All my favorite foods were listed as contraindicated with this health challenge so I hope I never develop it! They suggest avoiding coffee, tea, chocolate and peppermint. I love all of those! Also suggested to avoid alcoholic beverages and high-fat foods.
Part Two: Symptoms of Barrett's Esophagus
Part Three: Risk Factors for GERD patients developing Barrett's Esophagus
Holistic Wellbeing Disclaimer: This information is given for educational purposes and not intended to replace any needed medical testing. An endoscopy (a medical procedure where a tube with a light is put down your throat) can allow a doctor to see if salmon-colored skin or other characteristic changes have occurred in the esophagus. If you have exhibited the symptoms covered, are at risk, or have had GERD for a long time, ask your doctor if you need to be monitored for Barrett's Esophagus.