Symptoms & Causes of Barrett's Esophagus
What are the symptoms of Barrett’s esophagus?
While Barrett’s esophagus itself doesn’t cause symptoms, many people with Barrett’s esophagus have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which does cause symptoms.
What causes Barrett’s esophagus?
Experts don’t know the exact cause of Barrett’s esophagus. However, some factors can increase or decrease your chance of developing Barrett’s esophagus.
What factors increase a person’s chances of developing Barrett’s esophagus?
Having GERD increases your chances of developing Barrett’s esophagus. GERD is a more serious, chronic form of gastroesophageal reflux, a condition in which stomach contents flow back up into your esophagus. Refluxed stomach acid that touches the lining of your esophagus can cause heartburn and damage the cells in your esophagus.
Between 10 and 15 percent of people with GERD develop Barrett’s esophagus.4
Obesity—specifically high levels of belly fat—and smoking also increase your chances of developing Barrett’s esophagus. Some studies suggest that your genetics, or inherited genes, may play a role in whether or not you develop Barrett’s esophagus.
What factors decrease a person’s chances of developing Barrett’s esophagus?
Having a Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection may decrease your chances of developing Barrett’s esophagus. Doctors are not sure how H. pylori protects against Barrett’s esophagus. While the bacteria damage your stomach and the tissue in your duodenum, some researchers believe the bacteria make your stomach contents less damaging to your esophagus if you have GERD.
Researchers have found that other factors may decrease the chance of developing Barrett’s esophagus, including
- frequent use of aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and certain vitamins
This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.