Acid Reflux Tests & Diagnosis

Published: February 1, 2012

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Several tests assist in diagnosing acid reflux. First, the doctor will ask you a series of questions about your family and personal health history. Based on the description of your symptoms, the doctor will determine whether you are suffering from indigestion or whether there is a possibility that you have GERD.

Detailed medical and health history records are important documents that can help illustrate the progression of a problem. Health records can help illustrate whether symptoms have become worse over time and whether more extensive tests are necessary.

Keep track of your symptoms so that you can help the doctor determine what is wrong. Be sure to take note of whether your symptoms occur in the morning, at night, or throughout the day. Try to keep track of whether your symptoms occur when you eat certain foods.

Heartburn

Heartburn is the symptom that the doctor will focus on to diagnose you with acid reflux. You should be able to recognize this symptom as a burning sensation in the chest. If you have persistent heartburn, then the doctor may prescribe or recommend that you take an over-the-counter medication such as an antacid. If no treatments can effectively treat your heartburn, then you may have GERD. You may also have GERD if your heartburn responds to medications that block the production of stomach acid.

Clues about your heartburn may help a doctor look for the underlying cause for your symptoms. You may have an ulcer instead of GERD, and these conditions each require different treatments. Even though different treatments are necessary, some patients will notice an improvement in their symptoms after the doctor begins treatment, even if it is not precise to an ulcer or acid reflux.

Monitoring Tests

In order to diagnose gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a pH monitoring test is necessary to keep track of acid levels in the esophagus. This test can help assess whether acid reflux disease is present and what treatments might help. It is possible to monitor pH in the esophagus and changes in pH levels for a period of up to twelve hours. Esophageal pH monitoring tests can be performed as an outpatient procedure.

X-Rays

A barium swallow x-ray is a test that is used to identify problems including stomach pain, weight loss, and blood in the vomit. Barium is a metallic element that an x-ray can detect. A person undergoing a barium test will swallow a liquid, and the x-ray will track this liquid as it passes through the digestive tract. A barium test will reveal damage to the esophagus, ulcers, and the presence of a hiatal hernia, a problem that occurs when the stomach moves above the diaphragm.

Endoscopy

Some people, especially patients who have already been diagnosed with GERD or acid reflux, will need to undergo a specialized endoscopy called an esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD). This test requires the use of a scope to visually inspect the mouth, throat, esophagus, and stomach. An EGD can help explain the extent of damage to the digestive tract.

In general, the patient is asleep during this process. The doctor will place a tube into the patient's mouth and down the gastrointestinal tract. This tube usually contains a camera or other tool that allows the doctor to see inside the patient's esophagus and stomach. The doctor will use this test to examine whether any damage has occurred in the gastrointestinal tract, esophageal lining, stomach, and duodenum in the small intestine.

A biopsy is required to detect certain kinds of inflammation, cell disorders, and pre-cancers. Barrett's esophagus, a tissue disorder that occurs when tissue that lines the intestine replaces the tissue that lines the esophagus, can be diagnosed using a biopsy.

An esophageal manometry is used to identify whether the sphincters are functioning properly. This test measures sphincter pressure to determine whether the connection between the esophagus and stomach is opening and closing properly.

Routine Tests

Routine tests are sometimes necessary for patients who have received a diagnosis. Regular tests can help explain whether a person has endured any temporary or permanent damage. Tests are necessary to assess what treatments are necessary and most effective. Only a doctor can determine when and whether certain tests are necessary.

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