Measuring Your Risk of Barrett’s Esophagus

When gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) causes acid to consistently reflux from the stomach into the esophagus, it can lead to a condition called Barrett’s esophagus. Though this condition usually doesn’t lead to any symptoms beyond those of GERD, Barrett’s esophagus can increase your risk of developing esophageal cancer, which makes it a common cause for concern among GERD sufferers.

It’s worth noting that the risk of esophageal cancer is relatively small even among those with Barrett’s esophagus, and that your general surgeon in Ft. Myers or Naples can offer treatment for GERD and Barrett’s esophagus before they progress into something worse. Still, if you suffer from GERD, it’s important to speak with your general surgeon about your chances of developing Barrett’s esophagus and what can be done to prevent it.

What Causes Barrett’s Esophagus?

The answer to this question isn’t crystal clear. We know that the condition is strongly linked to chronic acid reflux, but that isn’t the only thing that can lead to its development—some people find themselves diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus without ever having suffered from GERD symptoms.

Usually, Barrett’s esophagus is found in those who have had chronic acid reflux and heartburn for 10 years or longer. There are a few other factors that make it especially important to stay wary of Barrett’s esophagus, including:

  • Age. Anyone can develop Barrett’s esophagus, but it’s more commonly found in older individuals and is rare in children.
  • Race. If you’re white, you’ll have a higher risk of developing Barrett’s esophagus.
  • Gender. Barrett’s esophagus is more common in men.

Because Barrett’s esophagus doesn’t cause its own symptoms, there aren’t many red flags that warn of its development. This is why it’s so important to stay wary of the condition’s risk factors and follow up regularly for screenings with your general surgeon.

So, now that you know the risks, what can you do to prevent Barrett’s esophagus from affecting you? Because the condition is so interwoven with GERD, many of the same strategies help: avoid trigger foods and tight clothing, keep your weight under control, eat smaller meals and keep the head of your bed elevated.

However, one of the most valuable pieces of advice for those worried about Barrett’s esophagus is to relax. Only 1 percent of adults in the United States suffer from Barrett’s esophagus, and of that 1 percent only a small fraction will develop esophageal cancer. Fretting over your risk of the condition will only lead to stress, which will only lead to acid reflux and more problems. Try relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation and yoga to ease your mind and help you control reflux symptoms.

And remember: if you have any questions or concerns about your risk of developing Barrett’s esophagus, don’t hesitate to speak with your general surgeon in Ft. Myers or Naples.