Barrett's esophagus is a complication due to long-term heartburn or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). The repeated exposure to stomach acid can cause cellular changes in the lining of the esophagus. The resulting tissue is called Barrett’s tissue. The Barrett’s tissue resembles the lining of the intestine.
Not all patients with GERD present with typical heartburn symptoms. In addition to the traditional pain and burning, it is important to be aware that chronic coughing, hoarseness, and symptoms similar to asthma may also indicate acid reflux. The risk of developing Barrett’s esophagus is just one of many reasons to seek medical help with chronic heartburn symptoms.
Barrett’s esophagus is diagnosed by a gastroenterologist performing an upper GI. Samples of the tissue are biopsied to confirm the diagnosis. Patients with Barrett’s esophagus are more likely to develop a rare type of esophageal cancer. Due to the risk, talk to your doctor about how often you should repeat the upper GI.