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Diagnosing Acid Reflux Disease

Acid reflux disease is one of the more common gastrointestinal ailments around. Affecting people from different walks of life, it can cause significant discomfort for patients. An important element for the proper treatment and management of this condition is to diagnose it properly. After all, it can be linked to a wide variety of causes and cause different degrees of damage. Here are some of the most commonly used modalities used for identifying and assessing the severity of acid reflux disease.

1. Barium swallow- This is a specialized X-ray procedure designed to identify structural problems in the esophagus. In this procedure, the patient swallows a glass of barium solution, which would then coat the entire length of the esophagus. This would make the esophagus visible on the X-ray image. While this is great for identifying problems such as ulcers and narrowing, it is not very specific as not all acid reflux cases cause esophagus abnormalities.

2. Endoscopy- This is one of the more popular methods for diagnosing acid reflux diseases and other ailments of the gastrointestinal tract. To monitor upper GI tract structures such as the esophagus or the stomach, the endoscope is passed through the mouth with the help of a sedative. This helps in checking the structural integrity of the stomach and esophagus. It also helps with identifying other problems such as esophagitis and stomach ulcers.

3. Esophageal manometry- This diagnostic test is done to evaluate esophageal function. In this test, the function of the lower esophageal sphincter, the barrier that separates the esophagus and stomach, is assessed. Any sign of weakness or damage to this sphincter can lead to a positive diagnosis of acid reflux disease. Sensors located in the manometer will measure the pressure exerted at different portions of the stomach and esophagus.

4. pH monitoring- One of the landmark signs of acid reflux is the traveling of stomach acid upwards the esophagus. Of course, such a condition is considered abnormal, as stomach acid should only remain within the stomach. As such, pH monitoring is one of the better tests to use to check for any sign of acid reflux. A pH monitor is placed inside your esophagus for 24 hours. All food or drink consumed during this period must be documented. Findings will then be used to evaluate the function of the esophageal sphincter.

5. Biopsy- This is considered as the most invasive form of gastric/esophageal assessment. This is often only done depending on results of previously done tests or if there are signs of advanced disease. A surgical instrument is passed through the mouth, which would then pick up tissue samples of the stomach or the esophagus. The samples are then analyzed to check for conditions such as ulcers, advanced infection, and cancers.

Those are just some of the most common diagnostic tools used for evaluating acid reflux disease in order to identify the problem and provide patients with rapid reflux relief. Of course, not all of these methods are performed at the same time. Often times, the type of diagnostic technique to be used depends on the symptoms manifested, results of clinical examination, and other tests.