About 10-15% of people who suffer from chronic acid reflux, referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), develop a condition called Barrett’s esophagus, a risk factor for esophageal cancer. At Illinois Gastroenterology Group in Elk Grove and Arlington Heights, Illinois, the experienced gastroenterology team specializes in diagnosing and treating Barrett’s esophagus. For expert care, schedule an appointment at the office nearest you by phone or online today.
Barrett’s esophagus is a condition in which the tissue that lines your esophagus more closely resembles the tissue of your intestinal lining than the tissue normally present in your esophagus.
The exact cause of Barrett’s esophagus is unknown, but it most often shows up in people suffering from GERD.
With GERD, the acidic contents of the stomach reflux up into your esophagus, damaging the delicate tissue. Researchers theorize that the tissue changes associated with Barrett’s esophagus develop as your body attempts to heal the damage. Not everyone who develops Barrett’s esophagus has GERD.
If diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus, you could be at risk of developing esophageal cancer, but that risk is minimal.
Barrett’s esophagus itself doesn’t cause symptoms. The symptoms related to the condition are due to GERD, and include:
In addition to GERD, being overweight, male, and white are additional risk factors for the development of Barrett’s esophagus.
The team at Illinois Gastroenterology Group performs an endoscopy to diagnose Barrett’s esophagus. During this procedure, your doctor inserts a small tube with a light and camera on the end of it into your mouth and down your esophagus to evaluate the tissue.
If abnormalities are identified, your doctor takes a sample of the tissue, referred to as a biopsy, to be evaluated in a lab.
A pathologist closely examines the tissue to determine the degree of tissue change, which is classified as no, low, or high dysplasia, and to determine the number, if any, of precancerous cells found in the tissue.
Treatment of your Barrett’s esophagus will depend on the degree of cellular dysplasia. With no dysplasia, your doctor at Illinois Gastroenterology Group usually recommends periodic monitoring of the tissue. For low dysplasia, your doctor could surgically remove the precancerous cells.
If you have high dysplasia, your doctor will perform procedures like cryotherapy or photodynamic therapy to destroy the precancerous cells. Surgical removal of the portion of the affected esophagus might also be recommended.
If you have GERD, keeping to recommended lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of esophageal damage that leads to Barrett’s esophagus. This can include:
Regular visits to your doctor to monitor your GERD is also recommended.
To schedule a consultation at Illinois Gastroenterology Group, call the office or request an appointment online today.