Barrett’s Oesophagus

Barrett’s Oesophagus is the term used to describe when some cells in the lining of the food pipe (oesophagus) have started to change. It can be worrying to be diagnosed with this condition but here we’re going to look more closely at Barrett’s Oesophagus and what it can mean. A small number of people with Barrett’s Oesophagus may see it develop into oesophageal cancer over a long time period, but this is not always the case.

What is Barrett’s Oesophagus?

Barrett’s Oesophagus is diagnosed when the cells that line the food pipe change. The cells, known as squamous cells, change into a more column-like shape when Barrett’s Oesophagus is diagnosed. They appear more similar to cells found in the small and large intestines and in some cases, these cells grown abnormally. Your doctor should look at the cells and grade them in terms of dysplasia (abnormality). The more abnormal they appear, the higher the grade, and the course of action or treatment can be discussed.

Barrett’s Oesophagus an increase your chance of oesophageal cancer but this is not always the case and many people live with the condition and do not develop cancer. The latest statistics suggests between 3 and 13% of people with Barrett’s Oesophagus in the UK will develop oesophageal adenocarcinoma in their lifetime. The risk of developing cancer is higher dependent on the grade of the cell changes.

What Causes Barrett’s Oesophagus?

Barrett’s Oesophagus more commonly effects men than women and it becomes more common as you age. Other common risk factors include a history or regular occurrence of acid reflux symptoms. Risk is also higher if you are overweight or obese and your fat is mainly situated around your middle and waist.

Common Symptoms of Barrett’s Oesophagus

Lots of people have Barrett’s Oesophagus and do not have any symptoms and the cell changes are simply uncovered during other tests.

People living with long-term indigestions and heartburn may discover they have Barrett’s Oesophagus. Lots of people have these conditions on and off but if you have indigestion on almost every day for a number of weeks, it is worth visiting your GP and getting a referral to gastroenterology.

Some people with Barrett’s Oesophagus also have difficulty in swallowing food or it may be regurgitated on swallowing, but this is not always the case and occurs much less frequently.

Testing and Treating

If you are suspected of having Barrett’s Oesophagus then an initial gastroscopy will be carried out to check the lining of the food pipe. This process uses a long flexible tube with a light on the end and allows the doctor to look closely at the cell lining.

Treatment for Barrett’s Oesophagus includes trying to control the symptoms which may involve diet and lifestyle changes as well as medication which can lower the amount of acid produced by the stomach. In severe cases it is possible to remove the damaged areas of lining or treat them directly.

Dr Rehan Haidy is an experienced Consultant Gastroenterologist, with many years working with patients with Barrett’s Oesophagus. He and his whole team appreciate the worry that comes with any cell changes in the body and will work to ensure any concerns are investigated and your condition is properly monitored.

To make an enquiry or appointment please contact Dr Rehan Haidry's secretary