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Barrett’s Esophagus

What Is Barrett’s Esophagus?

The esophagus is a muscular tube that carries food, liquids and saliva from your mouth to your stomach. In Barrett’s esophagus, also called Barrett’s syndrome or Barrett’s disease, the lining of the esophagus becomes damaged by acid reflux.

Causes

The cause of Barrett’s esophagus is not completely known, but it's suspected that long-term gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) contributes to the changes in the lining of the esophagus. Only a small number of people with GERD develop Barrett’s esophagus, and individuals who do not have GERD can still get the disease.

Symptoms

Barrett’s esophagus often does not have any symptoms. But symptoms of GERD, heartburn and acid reflux include:

  • Burning or pain in the chest
  • Frequent heartburn
  • Dry cough
  • Difficulty swallowing

GERD can also trigger asthma symptoms. Learn more about Barrett’s esophagus symptoms.

Barrett's Esophagus with Dysplasia

The first step in diagnosing Barrett’s esophagus is to identify abnormal tissue in the esophagus and look for precancerous cells, called dysplasia, to determine your risk of esophageal cancer. Individuals with Barrett’s esophagus are at a higher risk of developing esophageal cancer.

Your gastroenterologist will closely monitor you for precancerous cells. Early detection is key to treating and preventing esophageal cancer.

There are 3 types of dysplasia in Barrett’s esophagus:

  1. No dysplasia – Barrett’s esophagus is present, but no precancerous cells were found. Individuals with this diagnosis have no risk of esophageal cancer.

  2. Low dysplasia – Barrett’s esophagus is present and a low number of slightly abnormal cells were found. Individuals have a low risk of cancer.

  3. High-grade dysplasia – Barrett’s esophagus is present and a high number of very abnormal cells were found. Individuals have a high risk of developing esophageal cancer.

Your gastroenterologist will work closely with you to discuss your results and use the diagnosis to create a plan that helps treat GERD, manage symptoms and monitor your cancer risk.

Treatment Options

Treating Barrett's esophagus depends on the level of dysplasia and severity of your GERD symptoms. Your gastroenterologist will discuss a plan that is right for you, which may include:

  • Medication
  • Medical monitoring
  • Nonsurgical treatment such as radiofrequency ablation
  • Surgery

Delivering the Latest Advances in Care

The Temple Digestive Disease Center delivers a team-centered, state-of-the-art approach to a wide range of digestive diseases and conditions. Our gastroenterologists are highly trained and offer the latest advances in care, including minimally invasive procedures and proven surgical techniques. At the Digestive Disease Center, our patients receive:

  • Expert care – Our board-certified gastroenterologists see more than 13,000 patients every year, offering unmatched insight and experience into helping you manage your unique digestive disorder.

  • Latest advances in care – Temple gastroenterologists are the leaders in minimally invasive surgery and are often the first to offer the newest standards of care for a wide range of digestive disorders.

  • State-of-the-art facilities – We offer advanced technology to diagnose, treat and manage complex digestive disorders.

  • Clinical trials – Part of a leading academic center, Temple physicians participate in the latest research and clinical trials for digestive disorders, including access and opportunity to participate in select trials.

We are proud to be the proven leader in digestive disorders and deliver innovative care in diagnosing, treating and managing your condition so that you can live a full, healthy and active life.

When to See a Specialist

If you have recurrent heartburn, acid reflux or have been diagnosed with GERD, talk to your gastroenterologist about screening for Barrett’s esophagus. A gastroenterologist will work closely with you to identify your risk.

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience:

  • Chest pain

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Vomiting blood

  • Passing black, tarry and bloody stools

Ready for an Appointment?

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of Barrett's esophagus, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat Barrett's esophagus.