The most common GERD symptom is heartburn. It is a burning sensation in the chest caused by acid reflux into the esophagus. This burning sensation can also spread towards the throat.
GERD also commonly causes belching, or the backing up of stomach contents into your throat or mouth. This can cause an unpleasant sour or bitter taste.
Other possible GERD symptoms include:
It’s important to note that GERD symptoms can vary from person to person. For example, some people may not have heartburn or regurgitation, although these are the most common symptoms.
There are different types of tests used to diagnose GERD. The best option depends on your symptoms and the severity of your symptoms.
Your doctor can determine which test is right for you. The main diagnostic GERD tests include:
GERD can damage the upper digestive tract. This includes your:
- the first part of your small intestine
Because of this, your doctor may want to check the lining of these areas with an esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD). This is the most common GERD test. It is also known as an upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy.
The test uses an endoscope or camera attached to a flexible tube and light. The tube is inserted into your mouth and through your upper digestive tract.
This allows your doctor to examine the lining of your esophagus and look for signs of GERD.
Ambulatory pH monitoring
If you have GERD symptoms but have a normal endoscopy, your doctor may recommend ambulatory pH monitoring. This is the most accurate GERD test, making it the “gold standard” for GERD diagnosis.
It is a pH meter, like a catheter or wireless capsule. The device is placed in your esophagus for 24 to 48 hours.
During this time, the device measures the pH of your esophagus. pH measures how acidic or alkaline (basic) something is. It also measures the frequency, severity, and duration of acid reflux.
If your esophagus is acidic frequently during the 24 to 48 hours, you will be diagnosed with GERD.
Esophageal impedance pH study
An esophageal impedance pH study is similar to ambulatory pH monitoring.
In this test, a flexible tube is inserted through your nose and into your esophagus for 24 hours. It measures the movement of fluid from your stomach into your esophagus.
Your doctor may recommend this test if your ambulatory pH monitoring is normal. In addition, both the esophageal impedance pH study and ambulatory pH monitoring can be performed simultaneously.
An esophageal manometry checks the strength of your esophageal muscles.
This is important because the lower esophageal sphincter (ES) connects to the stomach at the bottom of the esophagus. When your LES is weak, your stomach contents can back up into your esophagus and cause acid reflux.
Drink and swallow water during an esophageal manometry. At the same time, a flexible tube is inserted through your nose into your stomach.
The tube is connected to a computer. As the tube is slowly removed from your esophagus, the computer will measure its muscle contractions.
If the contractions are abnormal, it can indicate GERD.
An esophagram uses X-rays to examine your upper digestive tract.
For this test, you swallow a barium (contrast) solution. This will make your upper digestive tract clearly visible on the x-ray.
The test can help your doctor determine if you have:
When diagnosing GERD, this test can be inaccurate. That’s because with GERD, you can have a normal esophagram.
Therefore, it is not a primary GERD test. Instead, your doctor can use it to monitor your symptoms if you’re also having trouble swallowing.