Barrett’s Esophagus is a condition effecting the lining of the esophagus where it joins the stomach. The lining becomes more like the lining of the intestine rather than the standard esophageal lining. It is thought that the changes occur due to repeated exposure to the stomach acid from heartburn or GERD.
GERD or reflux disease allows the stomach acid to re-enter the esophagus through a malfunctioning valve. Left untreated, the repeated exposure to acid causes scarring and changes in the lining of the esophagus. While not everyone who develops Barrett’s esophagus develops cancer, there is a type of cancer, adenocarcinoma, that can develop in patients with Barrett’s esophagus.
To diagnose Barrett’s esophagus, your doctor will use an endoscope to take a sample of the esophageal lining for a biopsy. Once the condition develops, heartburn medicines will not reverse the course of the illness. There are some ablation treatments which destroy the tissue and can be used if precancerous cells are found in the area.
To avoid the development of Barrett’s esophagus it is important that you not ignore or “self-treat” frequent heartburn. Make an appointment with a physician at Asheville Gastroenterology Associates and discuss your heartburn.