Barrett's oesophagus is an acquired condition of the oesophagus (gullet- food pipe) in which the cells change from the normal (sqaumous type) to long columns like cells. These long column like cells progressively acquire changes to the DNA (within the nucleus of the cell) which predispose the cell to abnormal mucus secretion.
These changes were initially described by Norman Rupert Barrett, an Australian surgeon and hence is named in his honour. These mucus secreting cells accumulate more damaged DNA, which eventually leads to cancer. The exact sequence of these events are subject to extensive research worldwide. Many of the risk factors have been identified, primarily long standing exposure of the food pipe to gastric acid and fluids.
People develop heartburn symptoms when there is reflux of gastric acid and other contents from stomach into the food pipe. Although not all people with heartburn develop Barrett's changes, it is estimated that 10-20% of the people with long standing reflux of the gastric contents into food pipe develop it. It is important to note that, Barrett's oesophagus can develop without having significant heartburn symptoms.
Here are few of the images of how Barrett's oesophagus looks, various therapies which can be offered via endoscopy ( a long telescope with fibreoptics which enables the endoscopist to visualise changes to the food pipe, take samples for examination under microscope by pathologist and also perform therapies).