When the lower lining of your esophagus sustains damage from acid reflux induced inflammation, it creates a condition known as
. Overweight or obese men that experience from long-term
(gastroesophageal reflux disease), have a higher probability of developing Barrett’s esophagus.
GERD is the constant and consistent regurgitation of your stomach’s acids into the lower portion of the esophagus. This continuous exposure results in the tissue of the lower area of the esophagus transitioning to the same type of tissue that is found in the lining of the intestines. This is a defense mechanism to protect the esophagus from further inflammation.
Although Barrett’s esophagus only affects a small portion of people living with GERD, if this condition develops the risk of esophageal cancers increases significantly. If diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus, regular checkups for precancerous cells, or dysplasia, is required. But how do you know if you have Barrett’s esophagus? Here are six common symptoms and signs of this severe condition.
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The exact cause of Barrett’s esophagus hasn’t been determined, but a common recurring theme is GERD. GERD is a result of issues with sphincter muscle at the end of the esophagus. When this mechanism contracts and releases at inappropriate times, it will allow stomach acids to enter the lower esophagus. This condition may require surgery to correct, and if left untreated can lead to the development of Barrett’s esophagus.
If you have a burning sensation behind the sternum, rising to the bottom of the throat, you are experiencing a condition known as “
.” If this occurs more than twice weekly, you may have GERD. Frequent heartburn will have the same results as persistent GERD.
Dysplasia is a precancerous condition that occurs when the esophageal tissue begins to change in a way that can form malignant tumors. There are three stages of dysplasia. Low-grade, high-grade, and indefinite dysplasia. Low-grade dysplasia reveals that changes are occurring in the esophagus, but they are changing slowly. This diagnosis typically does not result in cancer but does mean that you should be rechecked every six to twelve months.
Difficulty Swallowing Food
is a common condition for people who have difficulty swallowing. Also, a common side-effect of GERD and other
, this experience is typical as other symptoms peak. The scar tissue created by the constant reflux of acid narrows the esophagus, resulting in a diminished ability to swallow.
The hiatus is the opening of your diaphragm. When your stomach pushes into the chest cavity, it creates tightness in the chest. Normally your esophagus would pass through the hiatus and its elastic tissues prevent the stomach from making its way into this space. With a
, a tear in the esophageal sphincter will allow the stomach to enter the chest cavity. This can happen in two ways: paraesophageal, meaning next to the esophagus; and as a sliding hiatal hernia. Sliding hernias are more common and result in the stomach and bottom of the esophagus sliding up into the chest. The cause of these conditions is unknown, but if left untreated can result in Barrett’s esophagus.
The inflammation in the esophageal lining is called
. This condition begins with tightness in the throat resulting in difficulty swallowing. When left untreated ulcers and scarring can develop. Other bacterial and viral pathogens can create infections and other issues. Untreated esophagitis can lead to Barrett’s esophagus.
These are only a few of the symptoms that can lead to Barrett’s esophagus diagnosis. If you experience any of these symptoms,
see a gastroenterology specialist
Digestive Diseases Center in Panama City
is here to help.