Barrett's esophagus is caused by gastro-oesophageal reflux disease which allows the stomach's contents to damage the cells lining the lower esophagus.
Researchers are unable to predict which heartburn sufferers will develop Barrett's esophagus. While there is no relationship between the severity of heartburn and the development of Barrett's esophagus, there is a relationship between chronic heartburn and the development of Barrett's esophagus.
Sometimes people with Barrett's esophagus will have no heartburn symptoms at all. In rare cases, damage to the esophagus may be caused by swallowing a corrosive substance such as lye.
The change from normal to premalignant cells that indicates Barrett's esophagus does not cause any particular symptoms. However, warning signs that should not be ignored include:
- frequent and longstanding heartburn
- trouble swallowing (dysphagia)
- vomiting blood
- pain under the breastbone where the esophagus meets the stomach
- unintentional weight loss because eating is painful
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