How Do Gastroenterologists Diagnose and Treat GERD?
A large number of people across the United States experience gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a common digestive condition characterized as a chronic acid reflux disease. Acid reflux develops when the muscle separating the esophagus and stomach (the lower esophageal sphincter or LES) does not function correctly, causing stomach contents to regurgitate into the esophagus. Individuals who have acid reflux disease frequently experience uncomfortable symptoms, such as chest pain, frequent belching, difficulty swallowing, a dry cough, and a bitter taste in the mouth.
If you are affected by heartburn or other symptoms of acid reflux greater than twice a week, GERD could be the culprit. It's important not to ignore GERD symptoms, since chronic reflux can damage the esophageal tissues over time. This might lead to more concerning problems, such as hiatal hernia or Barrett's esophagus. The gastrointestinal (GI) specialists at Digestive Health Associates of Texas are skilled at detecting GERD in Dallas, TX patients and can determine the ideal treatment to help you manage your symptoms.
How is gastroesophageal reflux disease detected?
Over the course of your visit at Digestive Health Associates of Texas, your GI doctor will review your symptoms and health history. One or more of the following tests may be recommended to determine a GERD diagnosis.
- Ambulatory pH monitoring: A pH sensor will be inserted into your esophagus, where it will remain for the next 24 hours. This type of catheter transmits information to a special device that determines the level of stomach acid present in the esophagus.
- Esophagram (barium swallow): You will swallow a white, chalky liquid barium before undergoing a series of radiographs. These x-rays will allow your gastroenterologist to evaluate the upper part of your GI system and identify digestive concerns, such as swallowing difficulties.
- Upper endoscopy: A thin scope fitted with a mini camera is carefully inserted down your esophagus to screen for inflammation. A biopsy might also be performed to assess for the presence of Barrett’s syndrome.
- Esophageal manometry: A flexible catheter is inserted through your nose and into your esophagus to evaluate the function of the LES.
GERD treatment options
The initial approach to treating chronic acid reflux disease frequently centers on adopting a few lifestyle and dietary behaviors. Patients might notice some improvement by avoiding foods and beverages that commonly cause acid reflux symptoms, such as:
- Spicy foods
- Citrus fruits
- Fried foods
- Processed foods
- Tomato-containing foods
- Alcoholic beverages
In addition, it's important to avoid overeating, keep an ideal weight, cease smoking, and allow food to fully settle after eating meals before lying down. For additional relief, your GI specialist might recommend taking nonprescription medications, such as antacids or H2 blockers (H2 antagonists). For people with chronic GERD symptoms, prescription drugs might be advised. These might be prescription-strength H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). Such forms of medicaments restrict stomach acid production to control acid regurgitation into the esophagus.
Adopting healthier lifestyle habits and taking medications are enough to properly treat reflux disease in many patients. In certain instances, however, a surgical approach may be the best option. At Digestive Health Associates of Texas, our experienced gastroenterologists work with individuals to determine the ideal treatment approach for every GERD patient.
Get treatment for GERD in Dallas, TX
For most people, periodic episodes of acid reflux are not a concerning occurrence. However, if you frequently have heartburn or other uncomfortable digestive symptoms, it could suggest a chronic GI condition. Our board-certified gastroenterologists can provide an accurate diagnosis for GERD and acid reflux symptoms. Contact the team at Digestive Health Associates of Texas in Dallas, TX to book a consultation with one of our skilled physicians.