Barrett's Esophagus Signs and Symptoms

Barrett's esophagus usually is asymptomatic (i.e., does not cause symptoms). In some cases, patients who have the condition experience symptoms related to chronic acid reflux, including heartburn (also called acid indigestion), excessive burping (belching), difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), and regurgitation of food.

Other symptoms include the following:

  • Chest pain (especially when lying down)
  • Coughing
  • Hoarseness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Weight loss

In some cases, bleeding occurs in the esophageal lining, causing vomiting or spitting up blood, which usually is bright red; dark, tar-like stools; and anemia (low red blood cell count). Anemia can cause fatigue, headache, pale skin (pallor), and weakness.

Complications associated with Barrett's esophagus include chronic esophageal peptic ulcer (open sore or lesion in the esophagus) and esophageal stricture (narrowing of the esophagus caused by scar tissue). In patients who have Barrett's esophagus, abnormal changes in cells that line the esophagus (metaplasia) can progress into a precancerous condition (called dysplasia) and esophageal cancer.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 28 Feb 2008

Last Modified: 14 Sep 2015