What is Barretts Esophagus

What is Barretts Esophagus?

What is Barretts Esophagus?

Barrett’s esophagus is a condition characterized by the replacement of the esophageal lining with tissue similar to that of the intestine, a process known as intestinal metaplasia. It often occurs without any noticeable signs or symptoms but is frequently associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). While rare, a small percentage of individuals with Barrett’s esophagus may develop a type of esophageal cancer that can be lethal.

Approximately 1% of adults in the United States are affected by Barrett’s esophagus, with the average age of diagnosis being around 50 years old. Determining the exact onset of the condition is often challenging. Men are twice as likely as women to develop Barrett’s esophagus, and Caucasian men are more commonly affected than men of other racial backgrounds. It is rare for children to develop Barrett’s esophagus.

The esophagus serves to transport food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach, where digestion begins. This process occurs automatically, and individuals are typically unaware of it. However, sensations related to swallowing large items, eating too quickly, or consuming very hot or cold liquids may occasionally be felt in the esophagus.

Digestive tract

The esophagus is lined with muscular layers, and at both its upper and lower ends, it is typically pinched together by sphincter muscles. These sphincters play a crucial role in swallowing and preventing food or drink from flowing backward.

During swallowing, the sphincters relax to allow the passage of food or liquid from the mouth into the stomach. Once the food or liquid has entered the stomach, the muscles contract rapidly to seal off the opening and prevent any leakage back into the esophagus and mouth. This coordinated action ensures that the digestive process proceeds smoothly and prevents regurgitation of stomach contents into the esophagus.