Last Updated on Jun 27, 2014

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Barrett’s Esophagus

Symptoms

Patient with Barrett’s esophagus may not suffer from any symptoms or may have symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux (GERD). It is diagnosed through endoscopy and biopsy.

Barrett’s esophagus does not cause any specific symptoms. In fact, the patient may appear normal at the time of diagnosis. Some patients suffer from symptoms due to gastroesophageal reflux such –

  • A burning sensation in the chest called heartburn
  • Feeling acid and food from the stomach regurgitate into the throat
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Cough
  • Hoarseness of voice.

Alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and food such as chocolate and peppermint worsen the condition.

Diagnosis of Barrett’s Esophagus

Barrett’s esophagus is detected by a procedure called upper Gastro-intestinal endoscopy. People over 50 years of age and suffering from gastroesophageal reflux for more than 5 years are advised to undergo the procedure. In this procedure, the surgeon introduces a thin tube with a camera at the end through the mouth into the esophagus. If any area looks different from normal, a biopsy of the area is taken and sent for pathology testing. The abnormal area could be either ‘short segment’ i.e. less than 3 cm, or ‘long segment’ i.e. more than 3 cm. Long segment areas are more prone to cancer.

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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