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Heartburn/GERD Health Center

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What Is Acid Reflux Disease?

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How Is Acid Reflux Disease Diagnosed?

It's time to see your doctor if you have acid reflux symptoms two or more times a week or if medications don't bring lasting relief. Symptoms such as heartburn are the key to the diagnosis of acid reflux disease, especially if lifestyle changes, antacids, or acid-blocking medications help reduce these symptoms.

If these steps don't help or if you have frequent or severe symptoms, your doctor may order tests to confirm a diagnosis and check for other problems. You may need one or more tests such as these:

  • Barium swallow (esophagram) can check for ulcers or a narrowing of the esophagus. You first swallow a solution to help structures show up on an X-ray.
  • Esophageal manometry can check the function of the esophagus and lower esophageal sphincter.
  • pH monitoring can check for acid in your esophagus. The doctor inserts a device into your esophagus and leaves it in place for 1 to 2 days to measure the amount of acid in your esophagus.
  • Endoscopy can check for problems in your esophagus or stomach. This test involves inserting a long, flexible, lighted tube down your throat. First, the doctor will spray the back of your throat with anesthetic and give you a sedative to make you more comfortable.
  • A biopsy may be taken during endoscopy to check samples of tissue under a microscope for infection or abnormalities.

Can Acid Reflux Disease Be Treated With Diet and Lifestyle Changes?

One of the most effective ways to treat acid reflux disease is to avoid the foods and beverages that trigger symptoms. Here are other steps you can take:

  • Eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Put blocks under the head of your bed to raise it at least 4 inches to 6 inches.
  • Don't eat at least 2 to 3 hours before lying down.
  • Try sleeping in a chair for daytime naps.
  • Don't wear tight clothes or tight belts.
  • If you're overweight or obese, take steps to lose weight with exercise and diet changes.
  • Also, ask your doctor whether any medication could be triggering your heartburn or other symptoms of acid reflux disease.

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