Your digestive system is a fascinating way to eat food, absorb nutrients, gain energy, and remove what your body doesn’t need. Your mouth, esophagus (food tube), stomach, intestines, and other digestive organs ensure your body gets the energy it needs to function daily because several things can go wrong, complicating how this system works.
Barrett’s esophagus is a condition that affects an early part of your digestion, specifically in the esophagus (the tube your food travels down when it gets past your throat or pharynx), as the name suggests. If you’re dealing with Barrett's esophagus, it can lead to problems with swallowing food, terrible heartburn, and various other unpleasant issues.
To better understand this illness and how it affects the body, we explore how it works, signs and causes, and what can be done to prevent or treat it.
Dr. Rajesh Mehta and the medical team at LoneStar Gastroenterology can help if you live in the Austin, Texas, area and suffer from symptoms of this gastrointestinal condition or other digestive problems.
Your esophagus carries the food you eat down to your stomach, and this condition affects the tissue lining. The acidic and chemical damage it causes changes the lining in your food tube, leading to this ailment, and can also lead to gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD, also known as acid reflux).
When it becomes damaged, that lining thickens and reddens from its normal flat pink color. If there’s enough damage to the lower section of this organ (the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES), it can cause the esophagus to stop performing properly. In rare cases, this illness can lead to a form of cancer known as esophageal cancer.
While not a common condition (Barrett's esophagus affects about one percent of people across the globe and five percent of people in America), and its cause is not entirely understood, risk factors increase the chances of dealing with it. These include obesity, long-term heartburn symptoms, having GERD, being middle-aged or older, being male, having a family history of the condition, and being non-Hispanic white.
This illness is asymptomatic (meaning it doesn’t cause symptoms) and is often attributed to long-term problems with GERD, so you’ll likely experience symptoms, including painful swallowing, difficulty swallowing, feeling like food is stuck in your esophagus, heartburn, sour taste, bad breath, persistent sore throat, weight loss, bloody stool, and vomiting.
Fortunately, there are ways to avoid dealing with the condition and methods of treatment. This ailment can be prevented with lifestyle changes, like giving up smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, not wearing tight-fitting clothes, raising the head of your bed (by at least 6 inches), and avoiding stooping, bending, or lying down after meals.
Treating Barrett’s esophagus can be done with medications or surgical intervention, if necessary. The class of drugs used to treat this condition is known as proton pump inhibitors (or PPIs), which help decrease the amount of stomach acid needed to reduce the damage to your esophagus.
In cases of widespread damage to esophageal tissue, surgical procedures can help eliminate abnormal cells and remove damaged tissue. These procedures include endoscopic resection, radiofrequency ablation, cryotherapy, endoscopic mucosal resection, and esophagectomy.
Barrett's esophagus is not very common, but it can happen, and if you find yourself dealing with it, we can help. Make an appointment with Dr. Mehta and LoneStar Gastroenterology today to get relief from this illness or other problems affecting your digestive system.