You may have heard someone refer to “Barrett’s Esophagus” at some point in your life, but believe it or not they weren’t talking about their cousin’s internal physiology. Barrett’s Esophagus is actually a medical condition. It’s a serious complication of GERD that can result in patients, causing the normal tissue lining of their esophagus to change to tissue that resembles the lining of the intestine.

Although having GERD makes you a candidate for Barrett’s esophagus, it only occurs in a small number of patients. Approximately 10% of people who suffer from chronic symptoms of GERD will develop Barrett’s esophagus over their lifetime.

The disease itself has no specific symptoms, but patients with Barrett’s Esophagus often have many GERD-related symptoms. The biggest potential complication of Barrett’s Esophagus is that it drastically increases the risk of developing esophageal adenocarcinoma, a serious cancer of the esophagus.

It’s important to note that even though patients with Barrett’s Esophagus are at a higher risk for developing esophageal adenocarcinoma, the disease is still incredibly rare. Less than 1% of people with Barrett’s esophagus will develop this type of cancer during their lifetime.

Because there are often no specific symptoms associated with Barrett’s Esophagus, it can only be diagnosed with an upper endoscopy and biopsy. Patients who are considered high risk for Barrett’s Esophagus should regularly be screened for the disease. There are many risk factors for Barrett’s Esophagus, but some of the most common are the following:

·      Age (over 50 years old)

·      Race (Caucasians are more prone to the disease)

·      Patient who have a long history of GERD

·      Patients who have hiatal hernias

·      Patients who are overweight or carry weight around their midsections

GERD doesn’t always cause Barrett’s Esophagus, but someone who has had it for a long time is at a much higher risk. If you have symptoms like blood in your stool, difficulty swallowing, persistent GERD-related symptoms sometimes even despite medical therapy, or meet several of the risk criteria listed above, then it’s probably time to sit down with your GI doctor and discuss potential diagnosis and treatment. 

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