Have you been diagnosed with GERD (gastrointestinal reflux disease)? If so, you know the discomfort of heartburn and acid reflux, GERD’s biggest symptoms. Very common in both men and women, GERD occurs when acidic or non-acidic stomach contents back up into the esophagus. It can also be accompanied by chest pain, chronic throat irritation, and difficulty swallowing. Many people with GERD find it manageable through medication (both over the counter and prescription), but it is very important to talk to a gastrointestinal physician about treatment methods if your condition doesn’t improve.
If left untreated, GERD could develop into a pre-cancerous condition called Barrett’s Esophagus.
What is Barrett’s esophagus?
Barrett’s esophagus occurs when the normal, whitish-colored lining of the esophagus is replaced with an abnormal, pink or salmon-colored lining. It can only be diagnosed by undergoing an endoscopy administered by a gastrointestinal specialist. Patients with GERD who are obese, smoke, or drink alcohol in excess are at a greater risk of developing Barrett’s esophagus. According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), people with a combination of GERD and Barrett’s esophagus are at higher risk for developing esophageal cancer.
Fortunately, there is treatment available to cure severe cases of Barrett’s esophagus, including removing the abnormal tissue in the esophagus via surgery. This is only done in life-threatening cases or when dysplasia (pre-cancer) is evident in the esophagus.
Patients with GERD should undergo regular endoscopies, as recommended by a physician.
Call Digestive Disease Associates in Hinsdale, (630) 325-4255, to discuss your questions about GERD or Barrett’s esophagus with one of our board-certified gastroenterologists: Dr. Carl Calandra, or Dr. Suman Kaur.
Note: This information shouldn’t take the place of a physician’s care. Please see your physician or one of the Digestive Disease Associate physicians with any questions or concerns.