Roughly 30 percent of Americans experience heartburn on occasion, and if it begins to happen more frequently, the condition is known as acid reflux. Acid reflux is categorized by a chronic irritation of a person’s esophageal lining as a result of stomach acid making its way up into your esophageal canal. Stomach acid is very potent in order to help break down food particles, but if it comes in contact with more delicate tissues, it can become painful or even lead to the onset of other serious health conditions, like esophageal cancer.
If you think you’re dealing with acid reflux, or you just want to make sure your heartburn is under control, you’ll likely head to a gastrointestinal specialist’s office. But how will they diagnose the condition? After all, they can view your stomach acid or esophagus with a standard X-ray. Below, we explain some of the ways Dr. Bhatti and his team will work to diagnose your acid reflux.
Diagnosing Acid Reflux
Acid reflux isn’t something that your gastrointestinal specialist can spot with the naked eye, but they will conduct a physical exam and ask you about your symptoms. Odds are they’ll have a pretty good idea if you’re dealing with heartburn or acid reflux based on your description of symptoms, but they may want to confirm their suspicions with a diagnostic test. Here’s a look at some of the ways doctors test for acid reflux:
- Barium Swallow – You can’t diagnose acid reflux with a standard X-ray, but you can with the help of a specialized barium swallow radiograph. In this painless test, you’ll swallow a barium solution that allows your doctor to see a clear picture of your esophagus on X-ray. This will allow them to look for esophageal changes that indicate acid reflux.
- Endoscopy – In this test, the gastrospecialist will insert a small tube with a camera attached to it down your mouth and throat. The camera relays a live feed to a monitor in the operating room and allows the doctor to visualize the lower esophagus. Patients say the procedure can provide some minor discomfort, but there is no pain and it can be performed in about 15-20 minutes. It also is more successful at diagnosing esophageal damage than the barium swallow.
- Biopsy – If anything that warrants additional attention is revealed with either of the two above tests, your gastroenterologist may order a biopsy. This will be conducted just like an endoscopy, but the tube will also have a small surgical instrument that can be deployed to collect a tiny sample of tissue. This is often done to see if acid reflux has led to potentially cancerous growths.
- Esophageal Manometry – This test examines the strength and closing ability of your esophageal sphincter. Again, a flexible tube is passed through your esophagus (this time through the nose, though) and into your stomach. Sensors inside the tube then record esophageal function as you take a couple sips of water. Low scores indicate that acid could more easily be making its way back up into your esophagus.
- Bravo Acid Reflux Testing – As we explain more on this page, Bravo Acid Reflux Testing involves the insertion of a small gel cap to your esophageal wall. Over time, this device measures the pH balance in your esophagus to determine if acid is entering the area. This provides very detailed data about the pH levels in your esophagus.
So if you believe you’re dealing with acid reflux and want to get to the bottom of your discomfort, sync up with Dr. Bhatti and see if one of these diagnostic tests can help figure out what’s going on. Once we have a handle on the condition, we can move forward with an individualized treatment plan. For more information, or to talk to a member of our staff, give us a call today at (651) 430-3800.