Is it heartburn or Barrett’s esophagus syndrome?

Is it heartburn or Barrett’s esophagus syndrome?

If you find yourself frequently reaching for a bottle of antacid pills, you may begin to wonder if that regular fiery feeling of heartburn in your chest could be causing damage.

You could be right. Left untreated, regular acid reflux can cause damage to the esophagus, which can result in Barrett’s esophagus syndrome. From there, the precancerous condition can turn into esophageal cancer.

Barrett’s most often is diagnosed in males over the age of 50 years old, those who are obese or who have a smoking history. Family history can also increase your risk for the condition.

One common misconception is that heartburn is a telltale sign of Barrett’s. Dr. Rogelio Silva, a gastroenterologist at Advocate Health Care, sets the record straight, “If you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and it develops into Barrett’s, your heartburn symptoms tend to actually get better. This is because of the cellular change to the esophageal lining that makes normal lining thicker, which is a better barrier for acid exposure, but it also increases your risk for cancer.”

Steps you can take to minimize damage to your esophageal lining:
  1. Avoid spicy, fatty, acidic, carbonated, or caffeinated food and beverages
  2. Eat smaller, more frequent meals
  3. Avoid eating too close to bedtime
  4. Stay in an upright position a couple hours after eating
  5. Quit smoking
  6. Maintain a healthy weight
  7. Consult with your doctor about taking over-the-counter antacids

If you are diagnosed with Barrett’s, there are precautions you can take to prevent the development of cancer. “You will need to be on lifelong acid suppressive therapy with a proton pump inhibitor, such as omeprazole or pantoprazole,” explains Dr. Silva. “Also, periodic endoscopic surveillance can rule out early cancer changes or progression of Barrett’s that would increase the risk for cancer.”

An endoscopy is a routine, preventive procedure where a tube with a camera is put down your throat to evaluate the esophagus and stomach while you are under local anesthesia.

If you are concerned about frequent heartburn or your risk for Barrett’s, contact your doctor.

Do you have symptoms of acid reflux? Take a free online quiz.

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  1. When I originally saw this headline, I suspected misinformation but was pleasantly surprised to find it quite accurate.
    I don’t particularly like Barrett’s to be described as a “syndrome” as, to me, that implies it is a symptom and Barrett’s has no symptoms, wich was the other reason I was lured by the headline.
    I provide support for those with Barrett’s including a Facebook group of over 12,000 members with the condition, and have produced what as been described as “the definitive workon the subject” – the Down With Acid encyclopaedia, so I do like to see news items that are accurate instead of those that continually regurgitate misinformation.
    Well done
    Chris Robinson (Barrett’s Patient Support)

  2. Francesca Streiff February 20, 2024 at 9:51 pm · Reply

    Thank You for the article.

  3. I have stage 2 barrettes esophagus

  4. Very informative article. I was suffering from heartburn for a long time. One day my wife, who is an RN and working in GI Lab, discussed my problem with her GI Doctor, who suggested an Endoscopy. The findings proved to be Barrett’s syndrome. He prescribed Omeprazole for few months. Subsequent Endoscopy showed considerable improvement. Now, I am no longer taking Omeprazole. In many instances, patients suffering from Barrett’s syndrome are not aware the situation. The above article will be helpful to many people for taking timely action and get cured.

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About the Author

Anna Kohler
Anna Kohler

Anna Kohler, health enews contributor, is a public affairs specialist for Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She received her Bachelor of Science in public relations from Illinois State University and has worked in healthcare public relations and content marketing for over five years. In her free time, she enjoys working out, exploring new places with her friends and family, and keeping up with the latest social media trends.