Barrett’s esophagus : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Definition

Barrett’s esophagus is a disorder in which the lining of the esophagus (the tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach) is damaged by stomach acid.

See also: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

When you eat, food passes from the throat to the stomach through the esophagus (also called the food pipe or swallowing tube). Once food is in the stomach, a ring of muscles keeps it from leaking backward into the esophagus.

If these muscles do not close tightly, stomach acid can leak back into the esophagus. This is called reflux or gastroesophageal reflux.

This reflux may cause symptoms of heartburn. It may also damage the lining of the esophagus, which is referred to as Barrett’s esophagus.

Barrett’s esophagus occurs more often in men than women. You are more likely to have this condition if you have had GERD for a long time.

Patients with Barrett’s esophagus may develop more changes in the esophagus called dysplasia. When dysplasia is present, the risk of getting cancer of the esophagus increases.

Pictures & Images

Digestive system

The esophagus, stomach, large and small intestine, aided by the liver, gallbladder and pancreas convert the nutritive components of food into energy and break down the non-nutritive components into waste to be excreted.

Esophagus and stomach anatomy

Esophagus and stomach anatomy

Food is swallowed and passes through the esophagus to the stomach, where the majority of digestion takes place.


Review Date : 8/1/2009
Reviewed By : George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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