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Diagnosing Acid Reflux Disease

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Three out of every 10 people experience heartburn on occasion, so it can be somewhat arbitrary to decide when heartburn should be called acid reflux disease.

Also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), acid reflux disease is a chronic irritation of the lining of a person's esophagus by stomach acid. Usually, it's just annoying. GERD can, however, have serious consequences, including esophagitis and Barrett's esophagus. Barrett's esophagus is a condition that increases the likelihood of esophageal cancer.

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Understanding Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) -- Symptoms

Not everyone with GERD has heartburn, but the primary symptoms of GERD are heartburn, regurgitation, and an acid taste in the mouth. Heartburn usually is described as a burning pain in the middle of the chest. It may start high in the abdomen or may extend up the neck or back. Sometimes the pain may be sharp or pressure-like, rather than burning. Such pain can mimic heart pain (angina). Typically, heartburn related to GERD is seen more commonly after a meal. Other symptoms of GERD...

Read the Understanding Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) -- Symptoms article > >

What Are the Symptoms of Acid Reflux Disease?

People with acid reflux disease often have some or all of the following symptoms:

How Is Acid Reflux Diagnosed?

If you experience classic symptoms of acid reflux disease -- chronic heartburn and regurgitation -- without any troublesome complications, it may be relatively easy for your doctor to make an acid reflux diagnosis.

A few people have GERD that doesn't respond to treatment. Or they may have other concerning symptoms, such as weight loss, difficulty swallowing, anemia, or black stools. If you're one of them, you may need any of the following tests.

Diagnosing Acid Reflux With a Barium Swallow Radiograph

Your doctor may decide to use a special X-ray procedure -- the barium swallow radiograph -- to rule out any structural problems in your esophagus. In this painless acid reflux test, you will be asked to swallow a solution of barium. The barium enables doctors to take X-rays of your esophagus.

Barium swallow isn't a surefire method of diagnosing GERD. Only one out of every three people with GERD has esophageal changes that are visible on X-rays.

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