How Is GERD Diagnosed and Treated?
Numerous Americans have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is characterized as having a chronic acid reflux condition. Reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (the muscle between the esophagus and stomach) does not function correctly, causing stomach acid to flow backward into the esophageal area. People who have acid reflux disease often notice distressing effects, like heartburn, burping, trouble swallowing, a persistent dry cough, or an unpleasant taste in the mouth.
If you endure heartburn or other symptoms of acid reflux more than twice weekly, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease. It is vital not to ignore GERD symptoms, given that the condition can damage the lining of the esophagus over time, resulting in more serious issues, like Barrett’s esophagus or hiatal hernia. At GI Alliance locations around the country, our gastroenterologists are skilled at diagnosing GERD and can provide the proper treatment option to help control your symptoms.
How is acid reflux disease diagnosed?
Over the course of your visit at GI Alliance, your gastrointestinal specialist will learn about your symptoms and health history. Your GI doctor might recommend one or more of the following services to determine a diagnosis.
- Esophagram (barium swallow): With this procedure, you will first swallow a white, chalky liquid barium. A radiograph will be then taken to enable your doctor to evaluate your upper digestive tract and detect any swallowing problems or additional GI issues.
- Upper endoscopy: A narrow tube fitted with a small camera is gently inserted down your esophagus to screen for inflamed tissues. A biopsy might also be performed to identify the presence of Barrett’s esophagus.
- Ambulatory pH testing: A gastric probe will be positioned in your esophagus, which will remain in place for a 24-hour period. The pH sensor will transmit data to a small device that determines the amount of stomach acid in your esophagus.
- Esophageal motility test: A narrow tube is inserted through your nose and into your upper digestive tract to analyze the function of the lower portion of your esophagus.
Treatment options for GERD
Treating GERD usually involves making a few dietary and lifestyle behaviors. You could notice some improvement by avoiding certain foods and drinks that commonly lead to heartburn or other symptoms. These include:
- Spicy foods
- Citrus fruits
- Greasy foods
- Processed snacks
- Tomato-containing products
- Alcoholic beverages
It is also critical to sustain a healthy weight, quit using tobacco products, avoid overfilling the stomach, and allow food to fully settle following meals before lying horizontally. If additional relief is needed, your gastrointestinal specialist might suggest taking nonprescription medications, such as antacids or acid reducers. In instances of advanced heartburn, prescription drugs could be recommended. Such options might be prescription-strength proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and H2 antagonists. Both categories of medication restrict the production of stomach acid to help lower the risk of acid regurgitation.
For numerous individuals, using medications and adopting improved lifestyle habits are sufficient enough to properly manage acid reflux disease. However, in certain cases, surgery may be an option. At GI Alliance, our qualified gastroenterologists work with patients to curate the most favorable treatment approach for each individual situation.
Find acid reflux disease treatment near you
In many cases, infrequent episodes of acid indigestion may not be a health concern. However, if you commonly notice a burning sensation in your chest or other uncomfortable digestive symptoms, it could indicate a persistent GI problem, such as GERD. A skilled GI doctor can provide a diagnosis for gastroesophageal reflux disease. Contact a GI Alliance near you today to schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified gastroenterologists.