Barrett’s Esophagus Specialist
At his practice in Haledon & Paterson, NJ, Dr. Eyad Y. Baghal uses state-of-the-art techniques for diagnosis and management of Barrett’s esophagus, a serious medical condition that can result in an increased risk for esophageal cancer.
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What is Barrett’s Esophagus?
The cells lining the esophagus differ from those lining the stomach or intestines, mainly because they have different functions. They also have a distinctly different appearance, so it is usually easy for a physician to tell them apart when examining the esophagus and stomach. Normally, there is an area at the end of the esophagus that marks the border between the cells of the esophagus and those of the stomach. Barrett’s esophagus is the abnormal growth of intestinal-type cells above this border, into the esophagus.
What Causes Barrett’s Esophagus?
The exact cause of Barrett’s is not known, but there is some evidence to suggest a connection between chronic GERD and the cellular changes that take place in Barrett’s esophagus. GERD causes acid from the stomach to reflux up into the esophagus, thereby damaging esophageal tissue. It is possible that the cells of the esophagus mutate into intestinal cells as they heal from stomach acid exposure as a defense mechanism, since intestinal cells generally withstand more acidic environments.
What are the Symptoms of Barrett’s Esophagus?
Patients with Barrett’s often have symptoms similar to those with chronic GERD. These symptoms may include heartburn, difficulty swallowing, and epigastric pain. However, many people with Barrett’s may display no symptoms at all.
What are Some Potential Complications of Barrett’s Esophagus?
In time, the Barrett’s cells may develop abnormal changes known as dysplasia (pre-cancerous changes). Over a period of perhaps two to five years, the dysplasia may then progress from low grade to high grade, and finally, to lower esophageal cancer. Barrett’s is one of the leading causes of lower esophageal cancer (adenocarcinoma). However, only about 1-5% of patients with Barrett’s esophagus will develop lower esophageal cancer. If you have a known diagnosis of Barrett’s or have chronic GERD and have not recently seen a physician, it is important to do so.
How is Barrett’s Esophagus Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of Barrett’s esophagus requires an upper endoscopy. This is done under sedation, at which time the physician examines the lining of the esophagus and stomach with a thin, lighted, flexible endoscope. Biopsies are performed to check for any mutation of the tissue, including abnormal pre-cancerous or cancerous cells.
How is Barrett’s Esophagus Treated?
There is currently no treatment to reverse Barrett’s esophagus. However, treatment of underlying GERD may slow the progress of the disease and prevent complications. Treatment of GERD often involves acid-suppressing medications. Routine endoscopies are recommended for patients with Barrett’s approximately every year to monitor the condition and make sure lower esophageal cancer does not develop.