Typically, Barrett's esophagus is a serious condition in which the lining of the esophagus changes to resemble that of the intestine. People with chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are likely to suffer from this condition.
Additionally, people with Barrett's esophagus are at a high risk of developing a rare type of cancer known as esophageal adenocarcinoma. However, it takes many years for a patient to develop cancer.
Men develop this condition twice as often as women, and the average age of diagnosis is about 55 years of age, as noted by the NIH.
As a patient, it's vital to note that Barrett's esophagus is a serious condition that can be challenging to cure. Therefore, one of the primary goals of treatment is to slow or prevent the advancement of the disease by controlling acid reflux.
The treatment choice for this condition depends on the level of dysplasia in the esophagus cells and the overall health of the patient. Your doctor will examine you before recommending the right treatment, which may include lifestyle changes, GERD medications, endoscopic mucosal resection, endoscopic ablative therapies, or a surgical procedure.
If a medical test reveals that you have no dysplasia, you will need to have a follow-up endoscopy after a year to monitor the condition. If there are no changes, your doctor will advise getting an endoscopy after every three years.
For low-grade dysplasia, you need to have a test at least after six months or a year. To prevent further progress, making lifestyle changes is important.
Your diet will need to be free of ingredients and foods, such as caffeine, chocolate, fatty foods, spices, and peppermint, which tend to trigger acid reflux. Patients need to avoid using tobacco, alcohol and carbonated drinks. After eating, avoid lying down at least for three hours and ensure your head is always elevated when sleeping.
In some cases, the approach of treatment is to control your acid reflux. So, the doctor will prescribe GERD medications to help with that.
Proton pump inhibitors, such as rabeprazole, lansoprazole, omeprazole, and esomeprazole, are given to suppress the production of acid.
Antacids, such as Tums, Alka-Seltzer, and Bromo Seltzer, are prescribed to neutralize stomach acid. Your doctor can also recommend H2 blockers, like cimetidine, famotidine, ranitidine, and nizatidine, to inhibit the release of acid.
In some cases, you will take promotility agents to speed up the movement of from the stomach to the intestines.
Gastrointestinal endoscopic mucosal resection, or EMR, is a procedure to remove the tissues of the condition from the digestive tract.
During this procedure, the doctor lifts Barrett's tissue and injects a solution underneath it before cutting it off and removing using an endoscope. You will undergo an endoscopic ultrasound before the resection.
Some common complications of the procedure include bleeding or tearing.
These therapies use different techniques to destroy the dysplasia in the esophagus. Doctors prefer these therapies to surgeries because they have fewer complications. After the therapies, your body will start forming new esophageal cells.
A good example is a photodynamic therapy, which involves the use of a chemical called porfimer and laser to kill the cells. The doctor injects the chemical into a vein in the arm, and you return after 24 to 72 hours to complete the therapy.
Another therapy is radiofrequency ablation, and it uses radio waves to kill Barrett's cells. The doctor mounts an electrode on an endoscope that generates heat to kill the cells.
When other Barrett's esophagus treatment options fail, surgical procedures might be the last resort. You might undergo esophagectomy to remove the affected parts of the esophagus. After the removal, the surgeon uses a part of your stomach or intestine to rebuild your esophagus.
If you notice any symptoms of Barrett's esophagus, such as frequent or severe heartburn, difficulty swallowing and chest pain, you need to visit a doctor to determine the condition. Most of these symptoms usually occur due to GERD. In some cases, the disease may not show any signs, and your doctor can notice it during your normal medical checkups.
Early detection and treatment can help in controlling this disease. Adhering to the doctor's advice and using medications as instructed is important.