Your description of your symptoms may be all a doctor requires to diagnose heartburn, but sometimes additional testing may be necessary. The esophagus can be viewed through an endoscope, a long, thin, flexible tube inserted through the mouth, or by X-ray.
Sometimes, your doctor may recommend a 24-hour esophageal pH probe study, especially if you have unusual symptoms, such as throat or chest or abdominal pain, coughing, or asthma-like symptoms. In this test, a long, narrow, flexible tube is inserted through the nose down into the esophagus and a probe is left there for 24 hours. This probe detects acid levels to determine if it correlates with your symptoms. A newer technique (called Bravo) measures 24-hour acid; it is done using wireless pH sensors, which eliminates the need for a tube insertion. To detect if your heart is the cause of your symptoms, an electrocardiogram (ECG), a recording of the heart's electrical activity, may be taken.
For most people, the painful burning sensation in the chest that comes from heartburn is just an occasional mild annoyance. But for those who experience it on a regular basis, uncontrolled heartburn can turn into a very serious problem.
Heartburn is the most common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. GERD results from the improper working of the a valve, called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), that normally keeps food and acids inside the stomach. When it doesn't work correctly,...
SOURCES: National Heartburn Alliance. WebMD Medical Reference: "Newly Diagnosed: Heartburn." DeVault, K. and Castell, D. American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2005; vol 100: pp 190-200. Pettit, M. Pharmacy World and Science, December 2005; vol 27: pp 432-435. Talley, N. and Vakil, N. American Journal of Gastroenterology, October 2005; vol 100: pp 2324-2337.
Jennifer Robinson, MD on August 26, 2014