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Barrett’s Esophagus – A Serious Complication of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Barrett’s esophagus is a potentially serious condition characterized by an abnormal change in the type of cells that line the lower part of the esophagus, the tube-like organ that carries food to the stomach. Also called Barrett’s oesophagus, Barrett syndrome, Barrett esophagus, BE, and columnar epithelium lined lower oesophagus, this condition is believed to be a cellular adaptation to gastroesophageal reflux disease, i.e., chronic heartburn. In cases of Barrett’s esophagus, normal tissue in the esophagus is replaced with tissue that closely resembles intestinal lining. Chronic heartburn – the regurgitation of stomach acid into the esophagus – causes the lining of the esophagus to become inflamed and, in some cases, begin to develop signs of the condition.

The alteration of cell type underlying this condition does not lead to any specific symptoms. However, owing to its association with chronic heartburn, Barrett’s esophagus is often accompanied by:

  • Burning sensations in the chest or upper abdomen
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarseness
  • Throat irritation
  • Vomiting blood
  • Weight loss

An individual who has been diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus is typically advised to reduce acid reflux through lifestyle changes and medication. Lifestyle changes can include avoiding eating certain foods, eliminating caffeine and alcohol, losing weight, and sleeping in an inclined bed with the head of the bed elevated. Medicinally, acid reflux can be addressed by antacids, H2 blockers, prokinetic agents, and proton pump inhibitors.

Barrett’s esophagus is one of many esophageal disorders that are diagnosed and treated by the skilled physicians at Tampa General Hospital’s Endoscopy Center. In 2017-18, TGH was recognized as one of America’s Best Hospitals in Gastroenterology & GI Surgery by U.S. News & World Report.

Call 1-800-833-3627 or use our Physician Finder to locate a gastroenterologist.