Barrett’s esophagus is a condition in which the cells that make up your esophagus begin to look like the cells that make up your intestines. This often happens when cells are damaged by exposure to acid from the stomach. Barretts represents the most severe form of reflux (GERD).
This condition often develops after years of experiencing gastroesophageal reflux (GERD). In some cases, Barrett’s esophagus can develop into esophageal cancer.
The exact cause of Barrett’s esophagus is not yet known. However, the condition is most often seen in people with GERD.
GERD occurs when the muscles at the bottom of the esophagus do not work properly. The weakened muscles will not prevent food and acid from coming back up into the esophagus.
It’s believed that the cells in the esophagus can become abnormal with long-term exposure to stomach acid. Barrett’s esophagus can develop without GERD, but patients with GERD are 3 to 5 times more likely to develop Barrett’s esophagus.
Approximately 5 to 10 percent of people with GERD develop Barrett’s esophagus. It affects men almost twice as often as women and is usually diagnosed after the age of 55.
Over time, the cells of the esophageal lining may develop into precancerous cells. These cells may then change into cancerous cells. However, having Barrett’s esophagus doesn’t mean you will get cancer.
It’s estimated that only about 0.5 percent of people with Barrett’s esophagus develop cancer.
If you have GERD symptoms for longer than 10 years, you have an increased risk of developing Barrett’s esophagus.
Other risk factors for developing Barrett’s esophagus include:
Factors that aggravate GERD can worsen Barrett’s esophagus. These include: