The exact cause of Barrett's esophagus isn't known. Most people with Barrett's esophagus have long-standing GERD. It's thought that GERD causes stomach contents to wash back into the esophagus, causing damage to the esophagus. As the esophagus tries to heal itself, the cells can change to the type of cells found in Barrett's esophagus.

Still, some people diagnosed with Barrett's esophagus have never experienced heartburn or acid reflux. It's not clear what causes Barrett's esophagus in these cases.

May. 25, 2011