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Barrett’s esophagus

  • Definition

    Barrett's esophagus is a disorder in which the lining of the esophagus (the tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach) is damaged by stomach acid.

    See also: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)


    Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    When you eat, food passes from the throat to the stomach through the esophagus (also called the food pipe or swallowing tube). Once food is in the stomach, a ring of muscles keeps it from leaking backward into the esophagus.

    If these muscles do not close tightly, stomach acid can leak back into the esophagus. This is called reflux or gastroesophageal reflux.

    This reflux may cause symptoms of heartburn. It may also damage the lining of the esophagus, which is referred to as Barrett's esophagus.

    Barrett's esophagus occurs more often in men than women. You are more likely to have this condition if you have had GERD for a long time.

    Patients with Barrett's esophagus may develop more changes in the esophagus called dysplasia. When dysplasia is present, the risk of getting cancer of the esophagus increases.