If your primary care physician suspects that you might have gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, then he or she may refer you to a gastroenterology specialist for further testing and treatment. While gastroenterologists can often diagnose GERD just by listening to your medical history, assessing your symptoms, and performing a physical examination, he or she may recommend certain diagnostic medical procedures to confirm the diagnosis. Here are some ways your doctor can diagnose and treat your GERD.
Your gastroenterologist might diagnose your gastroesophageal reflux disease based on your symptoms. These symptoms can include heartburn, a chronic dry cough, sore throat, frequent throat clearing, and a bad taste in the back of your throat, which can occur when stomach acid rises into your esophagus. Other symptoms of GERD may include nausea, stomach pain, and even nasal congestion.
Your physician may also perform an endoscopy to evaluate your upper digestive system, including your esophagus and your stomach. During an endoscopy procedure, your gastroenterologist will advance a flexible tube down your throat to capture images with a small camera. If the pictures from your endoscopy reveal ulcers on your esophagus or throat, then your doctor will probably diagnose you with GERD.
There are a number of treatment options for gastroesophageal reflux disease. Your doctor may advise you to lose weight if you are obese because excess abdominal fat can put pressure on your abdominal organs, causing stomach acid to rise up into your throat.
Other treatments may include avoiding trigger foods and beverages such as chocolate, coffee, spicy foods, and alcohol, as these can increase stomach acid production. Over-the-counter acid-blocking medications and antacids containing calcium carbonate are also commonly recommended for people with GERD.
Sleeping on your side instead of your back will also help keep stomach acid from rising into your esophagus, triggering GERD symptoms. If side-sleeping does not help, your doctor may advise you to elevate the head of your bed so that gravity keeps your stomach acid from migrating upward.
People who have mild to moderate GERD can often be successfully treated with conservative treatment methods. For those with severe gastroesophageal reflux disease, lower esophageal sphincter surgery may be recommended.
If you have symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, make an appointment with your physician. When GERD is diagnosed and treated while still in its early stages, you will be less likely to develop soft tissue damage to your esophagus.