Barrett’s Esophagus Treatment in Bristol, VA
Do you suffer chronic heartburn, acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)? You may be experiencing Barrett’s esophagus, a condition caused by long-term acid reflux or GERD.
Barrett’s esophagus is a serious complication arising from damage caused by acid reflux and GERD. It occurs when throat tissue changes to resemble intestinal lining. This condition does not have any specific symptoms beyond acid reflux and GERD, but seeing a specialist to diagnose or rule out Barrett’s esophagus is a good idea—in some cases, this condition may cause esophageal cancer.
Chronic acid reflux and GERD can be painful, or even dangerous if it leads to a more serious condition. A gastric specialist can help identify or rule out Barrett’s esophagus. To speak with an acid reflux and GERD specialist in Bristol today, call us at (423) 482-8711 or contact Dr. Dalal Akoury online.
What Are the Symptoms of Barrett’s Esophagus?
This condition does not present any specific symptoms, but may include symptoms similar to acid reflux or GERD. When the bottom of your esophagus (a hollow muscular tube that runs from your throat to your stomach) doesn’t stay closed tightly enough after you eat your stomach contents, including acid, rise back into your esophagus and cause discomfort.
Common symptoms of acid reflux and GERD include:
- chest pain
- difficulty swallowing food
- chronic cough
- acid regurgitation
- burning in chest and back of throat
What Causes Barrett’s Esophagus?
The exact causes of this condition aren’t fully known. Most sufferers have long-term GERD, but some develop the condition without experiencing chronic acid reflux or GERD.
It’s possible that stomach contents flowing backwards into the esophagus damage its tissues and cause cellular changes that make the esophagus tissue resemble intestinal tissue.
Some risk factors of Barrett’s Esophagus include:
- chronic heartburn and GERD: when these conditions don’t improve with regular medication, they’re more likely to cause Barrett’s esophagus
- age: more common in older adults
- gender: males are much more likely to develop this condition
- race: Caucasians are at greater risk than people of other genetic backgrounds
- weight: being overweight, especially around your abdomen, increases your risk
- smoking: increases the likelihood of you developing this condition
This condition is quite rare. Most people with acid reflux or GERD won’t develop it. About 10% of chronic GERD patients will experience Barrett’s esophagus.
Barrett’s Esophagus And Cancer
Patients with this condition are at a greater risk of developing esophageal cancer, but the increased risk is small even in patients with precancerous changes to their esophageal cells. Most people with this condition will never develop esophageal cancer.
Seeing a specialist is strongly recommended so you can monitor your condition.
How Is Barrett’s Esophagus Diagnosed?
The preferred method of diagnosis is endoscopy. During this quick, painless outpatient procedure your doctor examines your esophagus with a flexible tube containing a tiny camera. A tissue sample for lab analysis may also be taken so your doctor can screen for dysplasia (abnormal cells that may be precancerous).
High-risk patients are advised to undergo this examination to screen for cancerous cells.
The results of your endoscopy will allow your doctor to determine the state of your condition:
- no dysplasia: your esophagus tissue is normal and not precancerous
- low-grade dysplasia: some abnormal cells exist and must be treated - a diagnosis confirmed by an experienced pathologist
- high-grade dysplasia: considered the earliest stage of esophageal cancer and requires medical treatment
How Is Barrett’s Esophagus Treated?
Your treatment will vary depending on the state of your condition and your general health:
No abnormal cells
If you show no precancerous cellular changes, your doctor will recommend a follow-up endoscopy within one year, then once every three years to monitor changes. You will also receive GERD treatment.
If your exam shows low-grade cell changes, your doctor will typically recommend another endoscopy within 6 months, then additional follow-ups every 6 to 12 months to monitor changes.
Treatment may be given in some cases. Your doctor may perform an endoscopic resection, which uses an endoscope to remove damaged cells, or radiofrequency ablation, which uses heat to destroy abnormal cells and tissue.
This condition is typically considered the precursor to cancer. Your doctor may recommend endoscopic resection or radiofrequency ablation. Other treatment options include:
- cryotherapy: destroying abnormal cells by applying cold liquid to freeze and warm them with an endoscope
- photodynamic therapy: destroying abnormal cells by making them light-sensitive
- surgery: removing the damaged part of your esophagus and attaching the remaining part to your stomach
Regardless of your current stage, your doctor will help you manage your GERD. Typical GERD treatments include:
- lifestyle changes: exercising, quitting smoking, cutting down on coffee and caffeine, limiting consumption of fatty or spicy foods, not eating right before lying down, reducing stress
- over-the-counter medications: Tums, Rolaids, Maalox, Zantac, Tagamet, Pepcid may help relieve reflux symptoms
- prescription medications: prokinetics to help your stomach empty faster, proton pump inhibitors that control or eliminate acid, HS-receptor antagonists that control acid
- surgery: rarely performed for GERD, but may be needed for very severe conditions
Request Your Appointment Now
Barrett’s esophagus is a rare condition, but long term acid reflux and GERD can be painful or even dangerous conditions that may lead to esophageal cancer. Having your condition checked by a specialist is strongly recommended.
AWAREmed Health and Wellness Resource Center
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