What’s Wrong with Morrissey’s Esophagus?

Morrissey

British singer and lyricist, Morrissey, best known for his lead vocals for 80′s band  The Smiths as well as a successful solo career, is now revealing the reason he had to cancel a number of recent tour dates. In a statement put on his website, true-to-you, Morrissey, 53, announced that he is suffering from a condition called Barrett’s Esophagus:

The reports of my death have been greatly understated. Once admitted to the William Beaumont Hospital at Royal Oak in Michigan, I received treatment for concussion, a bleeding ulcer, and Barrett’s esophagus. The positive from all of this is that there are now no known ailments left for me to try.

What is Barrett’s Esophagus?

Barrett’s esophagus is a condition in which the tissue lining the esophagus—the muscular tube that connects the mouth to the stomach—is replaced by tissue that is similar to the lining of the intestine. This process is called intestinal metaplasia.

normal esophagus

Normal Esophagus

Barrett's Esophagus

Barrett’s Esophagus

 

 

 

 

 

No signs or symptoms are associated with Barrett’s esophagus, but it is commonly found in people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) (see below). A small number of people with Barrett’s esophagus develop a rare but often deadly type of cancer of the esophagus.

Barrett’s esophagus affects about 1 percent of adults in the United States. The average age at diagnosis is 50, but determining when the problem started is usually difficult. Men develop Barrett’s esophagus twice as often as women, and Caucasian men are affected more frequently than men of other races. Barrett’s esophagus is uncommon in children.

Barrett’s esophagus is a condition in which the tissue lining the esophagus—the muscular tube that connects the mouth to the stomach—is replaced by tissue that is similar to the lining of the intestine. This process is called intestinal metaplasia.

No signs or symptoms are associated with Barrett’s esophagus, but it is commonly found in people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). A small number of people with Barrett’s esophagus develop a rare but often deadly type of cancer of the esophagus.

Barrett’s esophagus affects about 1 percent1 of adults in the United States. The average age at diagnosis is 50, but determining when the problem started is usually difficult. Men develop Barrett’s esophagus twice as often as women, and Caucasian men are affected more frequently than men of other races.

Barrett's-EsophagusThe exact causes of Barrett’s Esophagus are not known, but GERD is a risk factor for the condition. Although people who do not have GERD can have Barrett’s Esophagus, the condition is found about three to five times more often in people who also have GERD.

Since Barrett’s Esophagus is more commonly seen in people with GERD, most physicians recommend treating GERD symptoms with acid-reducing drugs.

Improvement in GERD symptoms may lower the risk of developing Barrett’s Esophagus. A surgical procedure may be recommended if medications are not effective in treating GERD.

What is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)?

GERD is a more serious form of gastroesophageal reflux (GER). GER occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter opens spontaneously for varying periods of time or does not close properly and stomach contents rise into the esophagus. GER is also called acid reflux or acid regurgitation because digestive juices called acids rise with the food or fluid.

gerd

When GER occurs, food or fluid can be tasted in the back of the mouth. When refluxed stomach acid touches the lining of the esophagus it may cause a burning sensation in the chest or throat called heartburn or acid indigestion. Occasional GER is common and does not necessarily mean one has GERD.

Persistent reflux that occurs more than twice a week is considered GERD and can eventually lead to more serious health problems. Overall, 10 to 20 percentof Americans experience GERD symptoms every day, making it one of the most common medical conditions. People of all ages can have GERD.

GERD symptoms are often relieved by over-the-counter, acid-reducing agents called antacids. Common antacids include Alka-Seltzer, Maalox, Mylanta, and Pepto-Bismol

Other drugs used to relieve GERD symptoms are called  anti-secretory drugs. These drugs block the production of acid and are divided into 2 categories:  H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors. Common H2 blockers are

  • cimetidine (Tagamet HB)
  • famotidine (Pepcid AC)
  • nizatidine (Axid AR)
  • ranitidine (Zantac 75)

Common proton pump inhibitors are

  • esomeprazole (Nexium)
  • lansoprazole (Prevacid)
  • omeprazole (Prilosec, Zegerid)
  • pantoprazole (Protonix)
  • rabeprazole (Aciphex)

People who have GERD symptoms should consult with a physician. If GERD is left untreated over a long period of time, it can lead to complications such as a bleeding ulcer. Scars from tissue damage can lead to strictures—narrowed areas of the esophagus—that make swallowing difficult. GERD may also cause hoarseness, chronic cough, and conditions such as asthma.

Source: National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC)

For more information, click  here to go to the Resounding Health Casebook on the topic.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

1 Comment

  1. rogerio

    February 7, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    Hi Dr. Michelle, I was diagnosed with GERD a couple of years ago and since then I started taking NEXIUN 40mg every day and went under a strict diet, A year after my first endoscopy I repeated the exam and the doctor found a little spot were he identified Barrets. He told me to not worry and keep the treatment. I saw many doctors for the past two years and finally last November I found this surgeon specialised in antireflux surgery and very experienced so I did the surgery. He told me to not take the Nexiun anymore and that I was fine (I don´t have simptoms anymore). I have worries because I was previously diagnosed with Barrets. I kept my antireflux diet although I am no longer taiking Nexiun and feel fine. Eve tough I had surgery should I worry about the Barretts´? My doctor told me that I was fine. But I am still scaried. The surgery went well and I did a endoscopy a month after and I showed that I went well and the results were fine.
    Would you give me some advice? Should I relax? I was really impressed with this condition.
    Thank you very much for your information!
    Rogerio (from Chile)

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