The esophagus is a muscular organ shaped like a tube responsible for transporting food and liquids to the stomach. Despite being part of the digestive system, it is composed of a different tissue from that found in the stomach wall and in the intestine.
Like any other part of the body, the esophagus can suffer injuries that lead to various complications , with Barrett’s esophagus being one of them. In this article we will talk about this problem so that you understand what causes it and can prevent it.
Then read on to find out the causes of Barrett’s esophagus and find out how this condition is treated.
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The causes of Barrett’s esophagus
As we explained, the tissues that make up the esophagus are not the same as those found in the stomach, therefore , the organ does not have the same protections as the stomach walls . Therefore, it cannot have contact with the acids that digest food.
However, when episodes of gastroesophageal reflux occur, the stomach contents return through the esophagus, which suffers aggressions due to high acidity. When these events occur in isolation, due, for example, to a very large or indigestible meal, they do not cause major problems for the esophagus, because it has time to recover.
However, when reflux episodes occur in a constant manner , characterized as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), there is a risk that the individual will develop Barrett’s esophagus due to constant attacks on the tissues.
Thus, gastroesophageal reflux is the main risk factor for the development of this condition. It is worth remembering that reflux is related to genetic predisposition, aging, obesity, especially with the accumulation of fat in the abdominal region, and is also related to smoking and alcohol abuse.
Treatment for Barrett’s esophagus
The Barrett’s esophagus is a problem that is characterized by changes in the tissue that makes up the esophagus. The process is called intestinal metaplasia because the natural tissue is replaced by one similar to the one that lines the intestine.
This condition does not usually trigger symptoms for the individual, especially when he is not yet at a very advanced stage. However , it is possible to notice the manifestation of symptoms very similar to those of reflux, being:
- Heartburn and burning;
- constant belching;
- pain in the mouth of the stomach;
- nausea and vomiting;
- feeling of not emptying, stuffing or distension;
- bitter or metallic taste in the mouth.
The treating Barrett’s esophagus is based on making the control of reflux and reduce effectively the return acid by administration of medication or surgery. Both options should be able to effectively decrease the amount of acid return and alleviate symptoms. In some cases, both treatments are used together.
The most advanced cases of Barrett’s esophagus and those that have not been successful with conservative therapies require major interventions. The radiofrequency ablation of mucosa is carried out to eliminate cells that have undergone transformation into a stage called dysplasia, which is considered precancerous because of prolonged and intense contact of the esophagus to the stomach acid. In even more advanced cases of dysplasia, the removal of the entire internal part of the esophagus already bruised by reflux and modified to Barrett’s esophagus called mucosectomy may be an option.
The aim of treating the esophageal mucosa or preventing acid reflux is to prevent the mucosa from continuing to mutate and progress to a malignant tumor , called esophageal adenocarcinoma . Thus, uncontrolled Barrett’s esophagus is considered a risk factor for esophageal cancer , a silent disease that usually manifests symptoms when in a more advanced stage, being mainly pain and difficulty in swallowing, altered appetite, chest pain and weight loss.
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Although Barrett’s esophagus is a benign condition, it needs to be treated so that the lesions do not develop into a malignant case. Therefore, if you constantly notice symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux it is essential to see a doctor, so you can treat this problem with simple measures, avoiding its complications.