Three Tests That Your Doctor Might Use to Diagnose GERD
There are a growing number of people in the United States who suffer from occasional heartburn. However, when heartburn becomes a regular occurrence, it may be time to pay a visit to your doctor. GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease is a common condition that affects approximately 20% of the population.
While GERD is not usually a life-threatening disease, about 20% of patients with chronic GERD will develop Barrett's esophagus which increases the chance of esophageal cancer. If you have finally reached the point where you have decided to seek a formal diagnosis...
What can you expect when you go to your doctor?
There are various forms of diagnostic testing available to confirm whether or not you are indeed suffering from Gerd. Upper endoscopy, pH monitoring, and a barium esophagram are three of several possibilities that your doctor could decide to use in order to confirm a diagnosis and rule out other diseases.
Endoscopy is often used to evaluate reflux-induced esophageal injuries. An endoscope that is also equipped with a tiny camera can examine the esophagus, stomach, and the first part of the small intestine. It is possible to even remove a tiny piece of tissue for biopsy in order to rule out other conditions.
PH monitoring records the level of acidity over a period of time. This is done by using a small probe which is placed through the nose and into the esophagus. The information gathered gives a better picture of the severity and the pattern of reflux with a particular patient. This not only helps to confirm that, indeed, the patient is suffering from GERD, but it also can help a doctor design a course of therapy and treatment that is more individually based.
A barium esophagram is an x-ray study that is very effective at diagnosing whether or not there is a stricture in the esophagus. It is also excellent at detecting a hiatal hernia. However it doesn't do a very good job of proving one way or the other whether there's inflammation in the esophagus or whether or not the patient is experiencing reflux.
Although admittedly, the above treatments don't sound like a picnic in the park, once a proper diagnosis is finally made, your doctor can then begin a treatment plan to help manage the symptoms of acid reflux. The goal is to reduce occurrences of reflux and painful symptoms as well as avoid further damage to the esophagus.
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