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Causes of Barrett’s Esophagus

Last Updated on Jun 27, 2014
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Causes of Barrett’s Esophagus

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)-The main cause of Barrett’s esophagus is gastroesophageal reflux. Conditions that increase reflux predispose a patient to Barrett’s esophagus.

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Normally, the esophagus is protected from the acid in the stomach by a valve at the lower end. Sometimes, this valve may not close efficiently. Thus, acid from the stomach regurgitates into the esophagus. This condition is called gastroesophageal reflux or GERD. The esophagus also shows regular movements called peristalsis by which it clears itself of food and regurgitated acid. If these movements are affected, the acid may be in contact with the esophagus for a longer time. Irritation of the esophagus by acid over prolonged periods leads to Barrett’s esophagus.

Risk Factor -

Conditions that increase a person’s risk for developing Barrett’s esophagus include -

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  • Age – Barrett’s esophagus usually affects people between 55 and 65 years of age.
  • Obesity- An increase in waist size predisposes a person to Barrett’s esophagus.
  • Male sex – Barrett’s esophagus is seen more commonly in males than in females.
  • Treatment of H pylori infection – H pylori is a bacterium found in the stomach that causes stomach ulcers. It appears to reduce the incidence of Barrett’s esophagus. Hence, treatment of H pylori infection may result in an increase in the number of Barrett’s esophagus cases.
  • Smoking and alcohol cause increase in acid reflux into the esophagus and can contribute to Barrett’s esophagus
  • Fat, chocolate, peppermint and caffeine reduce the lower esophageal sphincter tone and can cause reflux.

References:

  1. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine 17th edition
  2. Wood RK and Yang Y. Barrett’s Esophagus in 2008: an Update. Keio J Med 2008; 57 (3): 132-138
  3. Shalauta MD, Saad R. Barrett’s Esophagus. American Family Physician 2004, 69 (9): 2113-2118

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