Barrett’s Esophagus is a condition in which the lining at the lower end of the esophagus is damaged by stomach acid. When irritation occurs frequently over a long period of time, it is referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD, in turn, can cause abnormal growth of intestinal-type cells, like those found in the stomach, to occur at the lower end of the esophagus. This growth of cells in the area just above the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is the distinguishing feature of Barrett’s Esophagus. In rare cases, this abnormal growth can result in cancer.
It is believed that the abnormal growth of intestinal-type cells in the lower esophagus is a defense mechanism against acid reflux. The cells lining the stomach are protected from contact with acid, so their presence in the esophagus may protect normal tissue against further damage by GERD.
If your physician suspects Barrett’s Esophagus, a proper diagnosis requires an upper endoscopy (EGD).
Treatment includes prescription medication to reduce stomach acid production. Additionally, your doctor will perform routine EGDs with biopsies to monitor any progression of this condition — this is a critical step in treatment.