How Acid Reflux Can Lead to Barrett's Esophagus
Acid reflux, or GERD, is a disorder in which stomach contents like food, acid, and enzymes leak from the stomach back into the esophagus, the swallowing tube that leads from the mouth to the stomach. In some people, the damage and inflammation associated with acid reflux can cause genetic changes that cause the normal esophagus tissue to change into intestinal tissue (see image to right). When that happens, it is called Barrett’s esophagus (your doctor may refer to it as intestinal metaplasia).
There are no symptoms specific to Barrett’s esophagus, other than the typical symptoms of acid reflux (or GERD) which can include:
- Pain or discomfort in the chest
- Difficulty swallowing
- Burning sensation in the esophagus
- Sore throat
- Chronic cough
- Nausea after eating
- Bad breath
- Reflux-related sleep disorders
- Yellow fluid or stains on your pillow
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms for a prolonged period of time, you should consult with your doctor. It is estimated that 13% of the people who have chronic acid reflux also have Barrett’s esophagus. Left untreated, Barrett’s can lead to cancer of the esophagus.
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