About Barrett's oesophagus

What is Barrett’s oesophagus?

Barrett’s oesophagus is a change to the lining of the oesophagus from a flat (“squamous”) type of lining to a glandular lining that resembles that of the intestines. The oesophagus is the muscular tube that connects the throat to the stomach.

How common is Barrett’s oesophagus?

Nobody really knows, but it does appear to be relatively common. Estimates vary enormously depending upon the population surveyed, the precise definition used by the treating doctors, and depending upon how hard people look for Barrett’s. Some reports suggest that up to 2 out of every 100 people have Barrett’s oesophagus.

What are the symptoms of Barrett’s oesophagus?

People with Barrett’s oesophagus often have no symptoms of their condition at all. Some people report pain or burning of the oesophagus, but this is most likely related to the causes of the condition, rather than due to Barrett’s.

How is Barrett’s oesophagus diagnosed?

Most people with Barrett’s oesophagus are diagnosed by an endoscopy (when a doctor passes a long tube into the gullet to visualise the lining of the oesophagus). Any suspicious areas are biopsied and sent to pathology to be examined under the microscope.

How is Barrett’s oesophagus treated?

The treatment of Barrett’s oesophagus is highly specialised, and depends upon the severity of the disease (including symptoms of pain etc) and the extent of involvement of the oesophagus. Many people are put on surveillance programs to monitor any changes that might occur with time, although there is not uniform agreement among professional groups as to whether this has any benefit, or what is the optimum frequency of endoscopies.
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