Diagnosing Acid Reflux Disease (GERD)

diagnosing GERD guideGastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) develops when the valve separating the stomach from the esophagus becomes dysfunctional. Unable to close properly, the valve allows digestive fluids from the stomach to enter the esophagus.

As stomach acid irritates the tissue lining the esophagus, it causes a variety of symptoms , the most familiar being the burning sensation known as heartburn or acid reflux.

Do You Have GERD?

Occasional heartburn and acid reflux is common. When the valve known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) becomes damaged, then reflux may become chronic. When acid reflux occurs more than two times per week, it is considered a form reflux disease.

In addition to heartburn and acid reflux, GERD may cause secondary symptoms to develop. These may include:

  • Chronic coughing
  • Asthma
  • Sore throat
  • Sour taste in mouth
  • Burping
  • Regurgitation of food and liquid

If you have GERD, you may experience some or all of these symptoms regularly. They may become a chronic nuisance and begin to interfere with your lifestyle. Tracking such symptoms and keeping a log of your eating habits can help a doctor determine if the problems you’re experiencing are related to GERD.

Diagnostic Testing

When acid reflux and heartburn become chronic, Dr. Bagnato may recommend diagnostic testing to determine the cause of the reflux and evaluate damage in the esophagus,

These tests include:

  • Upper Endoscopy (EGD): During this test, a flexible tube equipped with a surgical camera is passed into the mouth to inspect the esophagus, stomach and small intestine. This allows your doctor to examine the tissue lining the gastrointestinal system and take biopsies for further testing to see the extent and severity of reflux.
  • pH Monitoring: For this test, a small tube is placed in the esophagus that measures acid levels in the esophagus for 24 hours. You may be asked to write down your eating habits and symptoms during to help your doctor correlate the findings of the test to episodes of acid reflux.
  • Esophageal Manometry Test: This test measures the functionality of the esophageal muscles. A manometry test may be used to assess esophageal muscle damage caused by acid reflux or muscle and nerve disorders that may be related to problems with esophageal movement.

These tests can also be used to examine complications that can be caused by chronic acid reflux to determine if additional treatment is needed. In some situations, chronic reflux will develop as a result of other health conditions, such as a hiatal hernia. In these cases, surgical treatment for the underlying condition often alleviates the severity and frequency of acid reflux.

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