The normal cells in the lower part of their esophagus are replaced by a different type of cell. This has the potential to turn into pre-cancer or cancer of the esophagus.
Barrett’s esophagus is a condition caused by chronic acid reflux. In Barrett’s esophagus, the normal lining of the esophagus changes in response to the chronic irritation from acid reflux. This new lining has been shown to be a risk factor for developing esophageal cancer later on. It is important to realize that even with Barrett’s esophagus the chance of developing esophageal cancer is low. However, the risk of cancer is increased and therefore current guidelines recommend surveillance endoscopies to ensure more serious changes do not develop over time. Limiting acid reflux is also a very important component of preventing worsening changes of the lining of the esophagus. Acid reflux control may include diet and lifestyle modifications, medication and sometimes acid reflux surgery.
Barrett’s esophagus is diagnosed by performing an upper endoscopy and taking biopsies of the portion of the esophagus that appears to be injured from chronic acid reflux, typically the portion of the esophagus near the stomach. The biopsies are then evaluated under a microscope to determine if changes of Barrett’s esophagus are present.