Skip to main content

What Increases the Risk for Barrett's Esophagus?

What Increases the Risk for Barrett's Esophagus?

As many as 10% of Americans suffer from Barrett’s esophagus, which is a condition that happens when the tissue lining the esophagus undergoes changes. Over time, these changes can increase your risk of developing esophageal cancer.

Barrett’s esophagus doesn’t cause symptoms on its own, but it is associated with specific risk factors. Knowing what those risk factors are is important for preventing Barrett’s esophagus and for seeking an early diagnosis.

Our providers at Digestive Disease Specialists, with locations in Moline, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa, are experts in diagnosing and treating Barrett’s esophagus. In this post, we explain what Barrett’s esophagus is and some of the risk factors for developing this condition.

Understanding Barrett’s esophagus

Like other parts of your body, your esophagus is made of a specific type of tissue designed specifically for the “job” of the esophagus. Barrett’s esophagus happens when that tissue changes into tissue that’s very similar to the type of tissue that lines your intestine.

While researchers don’t know the precise cause of Barrett’s esophagus, they do know that it tends to happen in people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD happens when the muscular sphincter at the end of your esophagus is damaged, allowing stomach acids to reflux or move backward. 

Over time, the acids damage the esophagus’ lining, and sometimes, these changes lead to Barrett’s esophagus. People with GERD usually have symptoms like heartburn, chest discomfort, sore throat, hoarseness, or chronic bad breath. But some people with Barrett’s esophagus never experience the heartburn symptoms associated with GERD, which is a condition called silent reflux. 

Symptoms and risk factors

While GERD is typically what leads to Barrett’s esophagus, there are also other risk factors that can increase a person’s chances of developing the condition. These include:

Not all GERD leads to Barrett’s esophagus, but if you have GERD that doesn’t respond to treatment, you’re more likely to have Barrett’s esophagus as well.

Diagnosing Barrett’s esophagus

Barrett’s esophagus doesn’t always lead to cancer, but it does increase your risk of developing it. If you have Barrett’s esophagus, or if you’re at risk of developing the condition, having an evaluation is important.

During your evaluation, our team uses a special scope — called an endoscope — to visualize your esophagus. Specifically, we look for changes in the lining material of the esophagus. If we notice unusual areas of tissue, we can use the scope to take a tiny tissue sample for evaluation in a lab.

If you’re diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus, these endoscopic evaluations are performed on a  regular basis to look for very early signs of cancer or precancer, so they can be treated. Our team also provides advanced medical therapy to help you manage GERD and prevent future acid erosion and irritation.

Don’t ignore GERD symptoms

Occasional heartburn is usually nothing to worry about. But if you have heartburn on a regular basis, you should have it medically evaluated, even if you can relieve it with over-the-counter products. Early evaluation can help prevent Barrett’s esophagus or prevent it from progressing to a more serious stage.

To learn more about Barrett’s esophagus or GERD, request an appointment online or over the phone with Digestive Disease Specialists today.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Why is H Pylori so Common Around the World?

Why is H Pylori so Common Around the World?

H. Pylori is a germ that infects about half the world’s population, causing stomach pain and increasing the risk for certain cancers. Here’s why this infection is so prevalent and what we can do to treat it.

5 Types of Hepatitis: Signs and Treatments

Most of us have heard of the liver disease called hepatitis, but many of us are unaware that hepatitis occurs in several forms. Here, learn about the five main types of hepatitis, including the symptoms and treatments.
Prevention Tips for Hepatitis Infection

Prevention Tips for Hepatitis Infection

Hepatitis can cause serious liver problems, some of which can be life-threatening. Learning how to prevent hepatitis infections is an important way to keep your liver healthy and avoid potential complications. Here’s what to do.

Early Warning Signs of Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease is a chronic medical problem that causes inflammation in your digestive tract. Early management is essential for avoiding serious complications. Here are the warning signs you should know about.
6 Signs You May Have H Pylori

6 Signs You May Have H Pylori

Helicobacter pylori is a bacteria that causes an array of stomach problems, including peptic ulcers. In this post, you’ll learn what symptoms to look for, so you can seek treatment before the infection causes more serious complications.