Barrett’s Esophagus and Acid Reflux
While almost every cell in your body contains the genetic information to perform each of the different tasks carried out by your body, they are often specialized to their own job. For example, stomach cells are tough, closely packed, and reproduce quickly so that your stomach acid does not eat through the lining of your stomach. Although this is helpful, it can cause serious problems if a cell becomes confused about its specialization.
The cells in the esophagus are specific to helping you pass food from your mouth to your stomach. However, sometimes these cells are replaced by the cells that are specific to your stomach or intestines in a condition called Barrett’s esophagus, an often unnoticed disorder that affects 1% of the population.
While Barrett’s occurs in only 1% of the population as a whole, this percentage greatly increases when you look at people who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. GERD occurs when the valve between the esophagus and stomach, the lower esophageal sphincter, becomes weak. This allows stomach acid to splash up into the esophagus, burning the delicate tissues there. This acid reflux is what causes the painful sensation of heartburn.
In GERD patients, about 1 in 10 every people are found to have Barrett’s esophagus. Some scientists believe that this is actually part of the body’s defense mechanism against acid reflux. As mentioned above, the stomach cells are more conditioned to dealing with the harsh stomach than the cells of the esophagus. Thus, your body may grow stomach and intestinal cells in your esophagus to help prevent the damage from stomach acid.
Although Barrett’s esophagus may at first seem like a good thing, researchers have also found that it can actually increase a person’s risk of developing lower esophageal cancer. As the cells are already abnormal in the first place, they can slowly undergo dysplasia. If the cells start showing signs of dysplasia, it can turn into cancer in 2-5 years. Thankfully, dysplasia only turns into cancer in about 1%-5% of the sufferers.
To prevent chronic acid reflux from resulting in Barrett’s esophagus, some doctors prescribe medications to people with GERD that help reduce the amount of acid that splashes into the esophagus. One medication utilized by patients is Reglan. Reglan contains a drug called metoclopramide which stimulates the muscles of the upper digestive tract. This means that your food is processed faster, not allowing stomach acid to rise up and burn the esophagus.
Reglan may be helpful in some cases. At the same time, though, the metoclopramide can lead to serious changes between the connections of your muscles and nerves. This can lead to neuromuscular disorders like tardive dyskinesia, which has symptoms like uncontrollable muscle spasms.
If you have developed a neuromuscular disorder after taking Reglan, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your suffering. To learn more, please visit the website of the Reglan attorneys of Williams Kherkher today.