Heartburn is such a common problem, and it makes it easy to accept as normal. But some of those symptoms can also point to a serious condition. The physicians at Carolina Digestive can help you discover the cause of your heartburn before it turns into something worse. Often, heartburn can be a misleading “self-diagnosis” for Gastroesophageal Reflux disease (GERD), which would cause concern for something called Barrett’s Esophagus.

The Anatomy Of Heartburn


The esophagus runs from your throat to your stomach. It is a muscular tube that is lined with moist pink tissue called mucosa. At the bottom is the esophageal sphincter- a valve that closes to keep food inside the stomach and from backing up into the esophagus. The esophagus serves as a gateway for food and drinks to travel from the mouth to the stomach. 

So what is GERD? When the valve in the esophagus doesn’t work properly, stomach contents can escape and irritate the esophageal lining, causing the familiar burning sensation known as heartburn. GERD can also cause acid regurgitation when the acid from the stomach comes through the chest and sometimes into the mouth. 

How GERD Leads to Barrett’s Esophagus


Barrett’s esophagus typically occurs when GERD symptoms persist for a long time or from an early age. The frequency of symptoms or their severity doesn’t make it more or less likely that Barrett’s esophagus will develop. 

Barrett’s esophagus changes the esophageal lining, causing it to become more like the tissue that lines the intestines. The biggest concern with Barrett’s esophagus is that adenocarcinoma, a type of cancer of the esophagus, begins in Barrett’s tissue. That’s why it's so important to get screened if heartburn persists. 

Esophageal Cancer Is on the Rise


Occurrences of Adenocarcinoma are increasing. Early symptoms include abdominal pain, difficulty swallowing, unexplained weight loss, vomiting, fatigue, chronic hiccups, and chronic cough, in addition to heartburn and reflux.

Experts don’t know exactly what is causing the increase in adenocarcinoma cases. The increase has been seen most frequently in white males, with the average patient being 67 years of age. 

Get the Answers You Need


Anyone can develop Barrett’s esophagus or cancer of the esophagus. As such, everyone should consider persistent heartburn as a reason to see a doctor. Contact Carolina Digestive today and schedule an appointment. We are here to help you understand your symptoms and provide you with the best treatment options.