Barrett's esophagus

In Barrett's esophagus, tissue in the tube connecting your mouth and stomach (esophagus) is replaced by tissue similar to the intestinal lining.

Barrett's esophagus is most often diagnosed in people who have long-term gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) — a chronic regurgitation of acid from the stomach into the lower esophagus. Only a small percentage of people with GERD will develop Barrett's esophagus.

Barrett's esophagus is associated with an increased risk of developing esophageal cancer. Although the risk is small, it's important to have regular checkups for precancerous cells. If precancerous cells are discovered, they can be treated to prevent esophageal cancer.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications

The tissue changes that characterize Barrett's esophagus cause no symptoms. The signs and symptoms that you experience are generally due to GERD and may include:

  • Frequent heartburn
  • Difficulty swallowing food
  • Less commonly, chest pain

Many people with Barrett's esophagus have no signs or symptoms.

When to see a doctor

If you've had trouble with heartburn and acid reflux for more than five years, ask your doctor about your risk of Barrett's esophagus.

Seek immediate help if you:

  • Have chest pain, which may be a symptom of a heart attack
  • Have difficulty swallowing
  • Are vomiting red blood or blood that looks like coffee grounds
  • Are passing black, tarry or bloody stools

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