The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn, which is a painful and burning sensation that usually occurs after eating and can last for two hours or more. This pain is usually felt behind the breastbone and can travel up into the throat and neck, often accompanied by a bitter taste. To diagnose GERD, a healthcare provider will conduct a physical examination and inquire about your symptoms and medical history. In some cases, additional tests may be necessary to establish a diagnosis.
Doctors often diagnose GERD through a physical examination and inquiry about your medical history and symptoms. To further evaluate the condition, a medical professional may perform an upper endoscopy. This procedure allows for a thorough examination of the esophagus, stomach, and first part of the small intestine. This can help them spot damage from refluxed material and check for complications such as a hiatal hernia, esophagitis, or Barrett’s esophagus.
GERD treatment Denver and medications, such as antacids, relieve heartburn and other symptoms by neutralizing stomach acid. Others, like H-2 receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors, reduce the amount of acid your body makes. Occasional acid reflux is common in people of all ages. But if it occurs more than twice a week and doesn’t improve with lifestyle changes or over-the-counter medication, you may have GERD. In addition to heartburn, symptoms can include:
- A burning throat (sour acid).
- Chest pain that goes into your neck or throat.
- Bringing back swallowed food or liquid (regurgitation).
GERD develops when stomach acid or food and liquid back up into the esophagus (the tube that links your mouth and stomach). The most common symptom is heartburn. You may also have other symptoms, such as a dry cough or trouble swallowing. Your doctor can diagnose GERD with a physical exam and your medical history. Many people with typical GERD symptoms can start treatment without further testing. If you’re having severe reflux symptoms, your doctor may recommend a procedure called upper endoscopy to see the lining of your esophagus and stomach.
Your doctor can also use this test to check for a hiatal hernia, in which your stomach pushes up into the space where your diaphragm sits typically. Your doctor may also use a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera on the end, called an endoscope, to look for other problems, such as a narrowing of your esophagus or scar tissue from reflux-induced inflammation. Your doctor may also take a small sample of tissue from the lining of your esophagus, which is sent to a lab for examination.
Over time, reflux can damage the lining of your esophagus. This can cause pain and other problems, like inflammation of the throat (esophagitis). It can also lead to a condition called Barrett’s esophagus. This changes the lining and increases your chance of getting esophageal cancer. If you have GERD, your doctor can treat it with lifestyle changes and medicines.
They might recommend surgery as a last resort. Medications for GERD include H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). These reduce the amount of acid in your stomach. You can buy these over the counter or by prescription. You can also use over-the-counter antacids. These relieve heartburn and other less severe symptoms.
A ring of muscle at the bottom of your throat called your lower esophageal sphincter (LES), typically keeps stomach acid in your stomach. It opens when you swallow and closes to let food pass into your stomach, and it relaxes temporarily during burping or hiccups. If the LES weakens or relaxes too often, acid can back up into your throat and mouth. This causes the burning sensation you know as heartburn.
If occasional heartburn happens more than twice a week and simple lifestyle changes don’t help, talk to your doctor. They will assess your symptoms, do a physical exam, and consider your medical history. Your doctor might also order an upper endoscopy to look at the lining of your throat and esophagus. They might also request a pH test, which measures the amount of acid in your esophagus over time. This helps your doctor diagnose GERD and see how severe it is.