When Acid Reflux Leads to Barrett's Esophagus
Most people will on occasion experience heartburn. It isn't a pleasant feeling, but soon passes and happens only once in a while. Some people, however, are frequent sufferers of acid reflux. These people suffer weekly or even daily with the uncomfortable symptoms of acid reflux. When left untreated, acid reflux can become a serious condition often damaging the lining of the esophagus. In about 10% of the cases the lining of the esophagus becomes so damaged that it changes to resemble the lining of the stomach. This condition is called Barrett's esophagus. It is considered a precursor to esophageal cancer and often goes on to become cancer. Although most people do not develop this disease, the number of people with it is on the increase.
How Do You Recognize Barrett's?
Interestingly, Barrett's does not have any real symptoms of its own. Acid reflux can cause uncomfortable burning sensations, sore throat, regurgitation of food, and hoarseness of the voice. Barrett's has no significant symptoms to add to the list. Many people are not aware that they even have it. People with Barrett's esophagus have an increased risk for esophageal cancer. If Barrett's esophagus has progressed to cancer of the esophagus, the symptoms can include difficulty swallowing or weight loss. Still, only a small number of people with Barrett's esophagus develop cancer. It can be detected and diagnosed with the used of endoscopy and a possible biopsy.
Who Gets the Disease?
Barrett's is more common in men, especially Caucasian men over fifty. It also tends to affect those who have suffered with acid reflux for a long time or who began experiencing acid reflux at a very young age. Treatment should improve acid reflux symptoms and may keep Barrett's esophagus from getting worse. None of these treatments will reverse the changes that may lead to cancer.
If you are experiencing acid reflux on a regular basis, it is highly recommended that you seek the advice of your physician. There are a number of medical and non-medical treatments that can be done to reduce acid reflux symptoms. These treatments not only make life more comfortable, but also protect against further damage to your esophagus. Patients with Barrett's esophagus typically need prescription medication to suppress the production of stomach acid, such as generic Aciphex.
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