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Endoscopy Centers

Barrett’s Esophagus

Disease Summary:

Barrett's esophagus is a complication of chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).  This condition develops when the lining of the esophagus changes, becoming more like the lining of the stomach rather than the esophagus. This occurs when stomach acid damages the lining of the esophagus.  As the esophagus tries to heal, the esophagus lining may change to protect itself from the stomach acid.  This is Barrett's esophagus and if it occurs, it increases one's risk of developing esophageal cancer.


Most individuals with reflux will not develop Barrett's esophagus, and most individuals with Barrett's esophagus will not develop esophageal cancer.  However, if one has Barrett's esophagus, periodic endoscopy is necessary to take biopsies to assess for dysplasia.  Dysplasia is diagnosed by the microscopic examination of the tissue samples and is the earliest form of precancerous lesions.  If dysplasia is discovered, endoscopic procedures can be done to prevent the development of cancer.


Risk factors for Barrett's esophagus include chronic heartburn and acid reflux.  It can occur in both men and women, but is more common in men.  The diagnosis of Barrett's is made at endoscopy by visualizing the changes in the lining of the esophagus and taking tissue samples to confirm the microscopic changes.


Lifestyle changes to reduce acid reflux and heartburn include maintaining a healthy weight, eating smaller meals, stopping smoking, and avoiding laying down after eating.


If one has chronic heartburn and acid reflux or requires daily medication to control heartburn symptoms, one may need to be screened for Barrett's esophagus with an upper endoscopy.

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