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Barrett's esophagus is sometimes also referred to as Barrett esophagus or Barrett's syndrome. The disease involves an abnormal change or metaplasia, in the cells located in the lower part of the esophagus. With Barrett's esophagus, normal esophageal tissue is replaced by goblet cells, which are usually located in the lower portion of the gastrointestinal tract.
Barrett's Esophagus: Causes
When a person eats, food passes from the throat and into the stomach via the esophagus.
There is a ring of muscular fibers in the lower part of the esophagus that prevents food from being moved back upward after it is swallowed. If the muscles do not close tightly enough, it can result in stomach acid being regurgitated and leaking into the esophagus. The condition is referred to as gastroesophageal reflux or simply called reflux, and it can be extremely damaging over time.
According to Medline Plus, Barrett's esophagus happens in more men than women. People who experience gastroesophageal reflux disorder for a long period of time are more likely to suffer from Barrett's esophagus.
Barrett's Esophagus: Signs And Symptoms
The esophageal tissue changes that result from Barrett's esophagus will not cause any symptoms. However, there are signs and symptoms a person may experience due to gastroesophageal reflux and these can include the following:
- Difficulty swallowing food
- Frequent and intense heartburn
- A less common symptom is chest pain
Many individuals suffering from Barrett's esophagus will not display any outward signs or have any symptoms.
When To See A Doctor
If a person has had more than five years of consistent problems with heartburn or acid reflux, it is important to discuss the possibility of Barrett's esophagus with a physician. It is important to seek immediate medical attention if any of the following things occur:
- Passing of black bloody or tar-like stool
- Chest pain, which could be a warning sign of a heart attack
- Difficulty swallowing
- Vomiting that contains blood or blood that looks like coffee grounds
Barrett's Esophagus: Risk Factors
There are certain factors that can lead to an increase of a person developing Barrett's syndrome. The risk factors include:
- Age: Barrett's esophagus can happen to anybody at any age, but it more commonly occurs in older adults.
- Being overweight: Having body fat around the abdomen results in a higher risk of Barrett's esophagus.
- Chronic heartburn and acid reflux: If a person has gastroesophageal reflux or chronic heartburn, that requires the use of daily acid reducing information, it could increase the risk of Barrett's esophagus.
- Being male: A man is more likely to develop Barrett's esophagus than a woman.
- Being Caucasian: Caucasians have a higher risk of Barrett's esophagus than other races.
Barrett's Esophagus: Mechanism Of Action
Barrett's esophagus happens because of chronic inflammation. The main cause of the disease is gastroesophageal reflux.
Medical researchers are not able to determine exactly which people with heartburn will eventually develop Barrett's esophagus. Even though no relationship between the severity of heartburn and the occurrence of Barrett's esophagus has been established; there is a relationship between chronic heartburn and the disease.