How is GERD diagnosed?
People who are thought to have GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease) can take medication to see what happens. If their symptoms improve, they probably have GERD. If there is no clear outcome, other tests can be done.
A lot of people have heartburn after large meals. Occasional acid reflux is normal too. But very frequent, severe heartburn or acid reflux can be a sign of gastro-esophageal reflux disease, or GERD for short. In GERD, some of the stomach contents flow back into the food pipe because the entrance to the stomach doesn't close properly.
It is usually typical symptoms like these that make people seek medical advice. Sometimes people have an examination because of other symptoms, and then discover by chance that their food pipe is inflamed. The food pipe can become inflamed if the mucous membranes lining it are repeatedly exposed to acidic stomach juices.
Describing your symptoms in as much detail as possible is important when it comes to diagnosing GERD:
- What are the symptoms? Where exactly are they?
- How often do you have them?
- Do they occur after eating or when your stomach is empty?
- Do they get worse when you lie down?
This information can help the doctor to find out whether the symptoms are being caused by GERD or by something else.
GERD doesn't always cause obvious symptoms. For instance, someone might have GERD without having heartburn or acid reflux, or these symptoms may only be very infrequent or mild. Sometimes the main symptom is swallowing problems, a hoarse voice or a cough.