But did you know that Barrett’s esophagus is the most common type of chronic gastrointestinal disease?
It’s more common among people with gastroesophageal reflux disorder or GERD, and affects roughly 5% of those patients. In addition, it can increase a person’s risk of developing esophageal cancer, which is why it is important for people to be aware of this condition.
What is Barrett’s esophagus?
Barrett’s esophagus is a condition wherein the cells that line the esophagus transform into different cells in a process called metaplasia. This occurs when the lining of the esophagus gets damaged, and the normal squamous cell lining of the esophagus is turned into a columnar type, a variant that is normally found in the intestines. These abnormal cells grow in the part where the esophagus is connected to the stomach or the gastroesophageal junction, and can increase a person’s risk for cancer.
Barrett’s esophagus has also no known symptoms. However, you can watch for signs of the conditions it’s associated with like heartburn and acid regurgitation. In fact, the only way to diagnose this condition would be to undergo an endoscopy, so that the doctor can check if there is any abnormal growth in your esophagus.
When it comes to Barrett’s esophagus, heartburn that occurs at least twice a week is the biggest red flag. Heartburn symptoms include a burning sensation in the chest and vomit in the back of the throat (acid regurgitation).
Other symptoms you should watch out for include:
- Heartburn that worsens or wakes you from sleep
- Painful or difficult swallowing
- The sensation of food stuck in your esophagus
- Constant sore throat
- A sour taste in your mouth or bad breath
- Unintentional weight loss
- Blood in stool
It is possible that this condition could make GERD symptoms worse, such as make it harder to swallow food and cause chest pain. But generally, people with Barrett’s esophagus do not suffer from symptoms brought about by their condition.