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Diagnosis of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
The doctor may suspect GER based on symptoms and health history. If heartburn has been bothersome, your doctor may give you medicine to try out. It will lower the amount of acid the stomach makes. If they work for you, they can help with a diagnosis.
If you're still having problems or the medicine doesn't help, other tests may be needed.
Endoscopy and Biopsy
Endoscopy lets the doctor see the esophageal lining. A thin, lighted tube with a tiny camera is passed down the throat. The doctor will be able to see problems or changes during this test.
A biopsy helps look for any changes in the cells. Samples are taken and looked at in a lab. This can help find inflammation, cancer, or other problems.
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A 24-hour pH monitoring system is the best way to confirm acid reflux. A small tube is passed through the nose or mouth and into the stomach. The tube stays in place for 24 hours. It tracks the amount and timing of acid that backs up from the stomach. The doctor reviews the data, along with a diary. The diary will track what you eat and what activity you’re doing. A pattern may be seen. This will help find the cause of your problems.
Sometimes, a capsule is placed into the esophagus. It sends data to a monitor worn outside the body. The capsule will break off and pass through the intestines.
Upper GI Series
This test can be done in a doctor's office. A tube is passed through the mouth into the esophagus. The tube measures the pressure made by the muscles in the esophagus.
Diagnosis of GER & GERD. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults/diagnosis. Updated November 2014. Accessed August 20, 2018.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). American Gastroenterological Association website. Available at: https://aga-cms-assets.s3.amazonaws.com/2018214195040---All%5FGERD%5F2017.pdf. Updated July 2017. Accessed August 20, 2018.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116914/Gastroesophageal-reflux-disease-GERD . Updated September 14, 2017. Accessed August 20, 2018.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Merck Manual Professional Version. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/esophageal-and-swallowing-disorders/gastroesophageal-reflux-disease-gerd. Updated April 2018. Accessed August 20, 2018.
Katz PO, Gerson LB, Velva MF. Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Am J Gastroenterol. 2013;108(3):302-328.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Daus Mahnke, MD
- Review Date: 05/2018
- Update Date: 08/20/2018