|What Is Barrett's Esophagus?|
|Wednesday, 07 October 2009 12:07|
Barrett's esophagus is a precancerous condition in which the lining of the esophagus is replaced by abnormal cells, with the esophagus being that tube which connects the throat to the stomach.
The esophagus is connected to the stomach by a muscular ring called the esophageal sphincter. This muscle performs two major functions. It opens to allow food to pass into the stomach, and it also closes to keep the contents of the stomach from splashing back up into the esophagus.
If this sphincter weakens or relaxes, the contents of the stomach splash back up into the esophagus. This splashing is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.
The lining of the esophagus is not made for this kind of abuse. After being exposed to stomach acid over a long period of time, the lining of the esophagus changes. This change in the lining of the lower esophagus is called Barrett's esophagus.
GERD is the major cause of Barrett's esophagus. Esophagitis, or chronic inflammation of the esophagus, can also lead to Barrett's esophagus. One-third of all people with Scleroderma, a skin disorder, develop Barrett's esophagus. For some unknown reason, Barrett's esophagus occurs three times more often in males than in females.
GERD can be caused by a weak esophageal sphincter that is present at birth or develops later in life. A hiatal hernia can also cause GERD. Hiatal hernia is a condition in which the stomach pushes up into the diaphragm muscle. When this happens, the esophageal sphincter does not work properly. As a result, the fluid can easily leak back into the esophagus.
There are several factors which make GERD worse including drinking alcohol or caffeine, drinking carbonated beverages or fruit juice, and eating fatty or spicy foods. Despite the availability of some common medical and surgical treatments for GERD, unfortunately, there is nothing that can prevent the cells of Barrett's esophagus from changing into cancer. However, it is important to treat the GERD to prevent further damage.
Your doctor may order regular esophagoscopy exams to check for cancer. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to your doctor as well.
Read the full article on Barrett's Esophagus, by Amanda Wattson here, and for more information on Barrett's via the NDDIC via this link.