If you have begun to notice the signs and symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), it is important to speak with a doctor as quickly as possible. Not only can the doctor help direct patients towards a GERD specialist, but he or she can also begin to provide any number of strategies and treatments to prevent long-term damage.
Here is a closer look at when it may be time to seek out testing for GERD, how this condition is diagnosed, and what types of medical specialists help patients find relief.
Many patients are surprised to hear that there are a number of basic side effects that could indicate GERD. Some physicians may prescribe various treatment options based on these symptoms alone. The main symptoms that you should look for are an ongoing dry cough, sore throat, nausea, acid reflux, the sensation of a lump in the throat, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, and heartburn.
Tests and Diagnosis
Most tests for GERD will involve a closer inspection of the esophagus and the chest in general. This may begin with less-intrusive tests, such as a pH swab to determine acidity or an X-ray of the chest itself. For a better evaluation of the condition, you may need to seek the advice of a gastroenterologist, a doctor who specializes in the digestive system. He or she may suggest an endoscopy, which is a common procedure in which a flexible tube is placed in the throat to view the esophagus or even take a precise tissue sample through a biopsy.
If your gastroenterologist does, in fact, believe that you have GERD, he or she may suggest one of a number of treatment options. This will generally begin with a number of simple lifestyle changes that will lessen the side effects or even eliminate them altogether. This includes habits such as refraining from eating two to three hours before bed, sleeping with your neck higher than your torso, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding tight clothing, quitting smoking, eating smaller meals, and avoiding foods that trigger heartburn.
Treatments and Medication
If these changes do not reverse the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, there are also a number of medications and treatments that may be used to address the causes of GERD. Surgery is typically the last treatment option that specialists will consider; most will want to focus on medication that lowers the acidity level within the stomach, reducing the chance of acid reflux. These few steps, along with lifestyle changes and new habits, will help the body naturally heal itself over time.