Barrett’s Esophagus

Barrett’s Esophagus services offered in Midlothian, N. Chesterfield, Short Pump, Henrico, Richmond and Mechanicsville, VA

Barrett’s esophagus is a complication of having gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), where stomach acid inflames the esophageal tissues. At their eight offices in Richmond, Chesterfield, Henrico, and Mechanicsville, Virginia, the Richmond Gastroenterology Associates team offers effective treatments for Barrett’s esophagus symptoms. They also monitor you for signs of esophageal cancer, which can affect some people with Barrett’s esophagus. To get a prompt diagnosis and expert treatment, call Richmond Gastroenterology Associates today or book an appointment online.

Barrett’s Esophagus Q & A

What is Barrett’s esophagus?

Barrett’s esophagus develops when the tissues lining the esophagus (the tube delivering food from mouth to stomach) suffer repeated exposure to stomach acid over long periods.

The cells in your esophagus change to resemble cells in your intestinal lining. These cell changes increase your risk of developing esophageal cancer.

While very few patients with Barrett’s esophagus get esophageal cancer, it’s important to see your doctor at Richmond Gastroenterology Associates regularly so they can monitor your condition.

What causes Barrett’s esophagus?

Barrett’s esophagus sometimes develops in people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD results from prolonged acid reflux, where stomach acid travels up the esophagus. The acid in your stomach is too strong for your esophageal tissues, which become inflamed and sore. Acid reflux causes heartburn (acid indigestion).

The cause of this acid reflux is a problem with your lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES is a ring of muscular tissue at the bottom of your esophagus. It opens when you swallow so food goes into your stomach, then closes to stop acid from escaping. A weak or damaged LES doesn’t close properly, so acid refluxes back up the esophagus.

If you don’t get the proper treatment for GERD, you could develop Barrett’s esophagus. Around 10% of people with long-term GERD go on to have Barrett’s esophagus.

What symptoms does Barrett’s esophagus cause?

People with Barrett’s esophagus typically experience symptoms of GERD, such as:

  • Frequent heartburn
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Chest pain
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • A dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Bitter taste in the back of the mouth
  • Nausea

To diagnose your symptoms, the Richmond Gastroenterology Associates team might perform an upper endoscopy (esophagogastroduodenoscopy or EGD). This procedure takes place under sedation, so you feel relaxed and sleepy. Your provider uses an endoscope (a lighted camera on the tip of a flexible tube) that they pass down your throat.

The camera on the endoscope sends images of your esophagus and stomach back to a screen in the treatment room. Your provider takes biopsies (small tissue samples) for lab analysis to confirm Barrett’s esophagus.

How is Barrett’s esophagus treated?

Treatments for Barrett’s esophagus are the same as those for GERD. They prevent further tissue damage by stopping acid reflux.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which stop the acid pumps in your stomach from working, are the primary Barrett’s esophagus medications. Lifestyle changes like weight loss and avoiding fatty, spicy foods also help.

Most importantly, you need to see your gastroenterologist regularly so they can detect any signs of cancer before it spreads.

If you have GERD or Barrett’s esophagus symptoms, call Richmond Gastroenterology Associates today or book an appointment online.