How do I know if I have acid reflux?
That is a great question that is not as easy to answer as most would think. Why? Because some people with reflux disease do not have symptoms, others have symptoms that are considered typical, and some have symptoms that can only be described as atypical. However, before we discuss symptoms, let’s take a moment and discuss what constitutes acid reflux disease.
What Is Acid Reflux?
The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is a muscle that is designed to keep the contents of your stomach where they belong – in your stomach. However, if that muscle is damaged, it cannot effectively provide the barrier function and allows food and other stomach contents to rise up into the esophagus – hence acid reflux. We have a great article on this: GERD Explained: The role of the LES.
Symptoms Of Acid Reflux
There are many symptoms of GERD that you may have noticed on our website. The traditional symptoms are heartburn, regurgitation, chest pain, and difficulty swallowing. Our article – GERD Symptoms 101 – contains a lot of great information about the most common GERD symptoms.
The atypical symptoms include a chronic cough, hoarseness, throat clearing and excessive postnasal drip. You can read more about these symptoms here: LPR: When your GERD symptoms aren’t typical
Because the risk of complications increases the longer you have symptoms, you should see a physician of you experience symptoms for more than 5 – 10 years, you must take them seriously and see a physician: Long-term symptoms: A warning flag
Keep in mind, though, that the symptoms of acid reflux are not unique to acid reflux and can be indications of other conditions, such as heart disease, gall bladder disease, or other disorders of the esophagus. Only a doctor can tell you for sure. Here are two articles related to this that you might find helpful: What is heartburn? and PPIs not working? It might not be GERD
GERD is a long-term, chronic condition that can vary in severity. We have developed a unique staging system to help you understand what the frequency and severity of your symptoms may indicate about your condition. You can read more about the stages of GERD in the article The Progressive Stages of GERD or use our Stage Finder to determine your GERD stage and read specific ideas about how to take control of your health.
Let me stress this point – you can’t be sure you have GERD until you actually have a diagnostic test to determine the actual cause of your symptoms. One of the challenges in the treatment of GERD today is that physicians often rely on your response to medications to make a diagnosis. Unfortunately, this so-called “PPI test” isn’t a diagnostic test and may not be accurate.
Depending in the frequency and severity of your symptoms, a comprehensive evaluation by a GERD specialist should be conducted to definitively diagnose GERD. This may include an upper endoscopy, which allows your doctor to look at your esophagus, and ambulatory pH testing, which actually measures the pH of the esophagus over a period of time.
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