Skip to main content

Barrett Esophagus

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Nov 5, 2023.

What is Barrett esophagus?

Barrett esophagus is a condition that is also called intestinal metaplasia. Cells that line your esophagus change into cells that are like intestine cells. The change increases your risk for esophageal cancer.

Digestive Tract

What increases my risk for Barrett esophagus?

The exact cause of Barrett esophagus is not known. The following may increase your risk:

  • Long-term gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Age older than 50
  • A family history of GERD, Barrett esophagus, or esophageal cancer
  • Obesity
  • Smoking cigarettes

What are the signs and symptoms of Barrett esophagus?

Signs and symptoms are usually related to the signs and symptoms of GERD. You may have any of the following:

  • Heartburn (burning pain in your chest)
  • Pain after meals that spreads to your neck, jaw, or shoulder
  • Pain that gets better when you change positions
  • Bitter or acid taste in your mouth
  • A dry cough
  • Trouble swallowing or pain with swallowing
  • Hoarseness or a sore throat
  • Burping or hiccups
  • Feeling full soon after you start eating

How is Barrett esophagus diagnosed?

An endoscopy is a procedure used to see the inside of your esophagus and stomach. A scope is a long, bendable tube with a light on the end of it. A camera may be hooked to the scope. Your healthcare provider may also take tissue samples to be tested for dysplasia (abnormal changes in your cells and tissues). If dysplasia is found, it will be given a grade to describe the amount of change. The grade can range from negative (no dysplasia) to high-grade (a large amount). You have a higher risk for cancer with high-grade dysplasia.

How is Barrett esophagus treated?

Treatment depends on the grade of dysplasia. The goal of treatment is to control your symptoms and prevent esophageal cancer. Your healthcare provider may also suggest that you make changes in the foods you eat and in your lifestyle. You may need any of the following:

  • Anti-reflux medicines help decrease the stomach acid that can irritate your esophagus and stomach. These medicines may include proton pump inhibitors (PPI) and histamine type-2 receptor (H2) blockers. You may also be given medicines to stop vomiting.
  • Surgery or other procedures may be done if you have high-grade dysplasia. Abnormal cells may be killed with heat or by freezing them. Light may be used to kill abnormal cells. It is used in combination with medicines that make the abnormal cells sensitive to light. Surgery may be used to wrap the upper part of your stomach around the esophageal sphincter to strengthen it. Surgery may be needed to remove part or all of your esophagus.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

What can I do to manage Barrett esophagus?

  • Do not eat foods that make your symptoms worse. Examples are chocolate, garlic, onions, spicy or fatty foods, citrus fruits (oranges), and tomato-based foods (spaghetti sauce). Do not drink alcohol, drinks that contain caffeine, or carbonated drinks, such as soda. Ask your healthcare provider if there are other foods and drinks you should not have.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, weight loss may help relieve symptoms. Ask your healthcare provider about safe ways to lose weight.
  • Do not smoke. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Smoking may worsen acid reflux. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you need help quitting.

Where can I get support and more information?

  • American Cancer Society
    250 Williams Street
    Atlanta , GA 30303
    Phone: 1- 800 - 227-2345
    Web Address:

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have severe chest pain and shortness of breath.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your bowel movements are black, bloody, or tarry.
  • Your vomit looks like coffee grounds or has blood in it.

When should I call my doctor?

  • Your symptoms do not improve with treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright Merative 2023 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.