With early onset or long-term GERD, the lining of the esophagus may change and become similar to the tissue lining of the stomach or intestines. This is called Barrett’s esophagus, or BE, and it happens in 10-15 percent of GERD cases.
Heartburn is not the only risk factor for developing Barrett’s esophagus. After the esophageal tissue changes to BE, the discomfort may subside because the new tissue is less sensitive to stomach acids. Other risk factors include: increased age, family history, male sex, Caucasian race, obesity, and a history of smoking.