What Is Barrett’s Esophagus?
Barrett’s esophagus is a disorder in which chronic exposure to stomach acid causes injury to the cells of the lower esophagus. Left untreated, Barrett’s esophagus raises a patient’s risk of developing esophageal cancer by up to 80 percent.
What Causes Barrett’s Esophagus?
Patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, are more likely to develop Barrett’s esophagus than those in the general population. Also known as acid reflux, GERD is a condition in which stomach acid regularly washes back up into the esophagus. To protect their long-term health, patients with GERD should undergo testing for Barrett’s esophagus.
Symptoms of Barrett’s Esophagus
Barrett’s esophagus usually causes few, if any, symptoms.
Risk Factors for Barrett’s Esophagus
Because many Barrett’s cases are asymptomatic, it’s crucial that patients be aware of the risk factors associated with this condition. Risk factors include chronic heartburn, smoking, family history of esophageal cancer, male gender, caucasian race.
Some risk factors that may increase a patient’s chance of developing esophageal cancer are uncontrolled acid, failure to take acid medication, long segment of Barrett’s, family history of Barrett’s or esophageal cancer.
Barrett’s patients undergo regular upper endoscopies and follow ups to help reduce the change of developing esophageal cancer.
Diagnosing Barrett’s Esophagus
Dr. Ahmed performs upper endoscopies and other procedures to diagnose Barrett’s esophagus. He will use the camera to identify abnormalities in the esophageal tissue. Normal esophageal tissue appears pale and glossy. Damaged esophageal tissue appears red. If your esophagus appears to be inflamed or damaged, Dr.Ahmed will take biopsies to assess for Barrett’s esophagus, and to also rule out other esophageal diseases.
Treating Barrett’s Esophagus
Long-term acid control has historically been the best way to prevent Barrett’s esophagus from turning into esophageal cancer. This is still the mainstay, which includes acid-reducing medications (proton-pump inhibitors), and reflux-reducing lifestyle changes such as limiting acidic and high-fat foods, avoiding eating two hours prior to bed, smoking cessation, limiting alcohol and caffeine, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Dr. Ahmed does offer Barrx radiofrequency ablation therapy for Barrett’s patients who have risk factors for esophageal cancer. These risk factors include history of dysplasia, long-segment Barrett’s, family history of esophageal cancer, and smoking. Barrx RFA is done endoscopically and removes the pre-cancerous Barrett’s layer.
If you have chronic acid reflux symptoms, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with Dr.Ahmed for evaluation and treatment. Diagnosing and monitoring Barrett’s is the best way to prevent
In the past, Barrett’s patients had fewer treatment options from which to choose and were often told to wait and see if their condition would progress to esophageal cancer. Fortunately, today’s Barrett’s sufferers have much better options available to them. Dr. Ahmed can perform Barrx radiofrequency ablation therapy to remove the pre-cancerous Barrett’s layer.
If you’re suffering from GERD, or think you may be at risk for Barrett’s disease based on your symptoms or risk factors, then you shouldn’t hesitate to schedule an apointment with Dr. Ahmed. Monitoring and treating Barrett’s now is the best way to protect yourself from developing esophageal cancer in the future.