Symptoms of acid reflux
- Heartburn is the most common symptom and usually feels like a burning chest pain behind the breastbone.
- Sometimes the patient may feel like food or water coming back into the mouth an acidic or bitter taste.
- There might be a sensation of food sticking in the food pipe or there is difficulty in swallowing.
- Sometimes, the patient may not have above mentioned typical symptoms. Usually called as silent reflux, these patients may present with constant sore throat, chronic cough or voice changes.
- Patients may present with breathing problems like shortness of breath or asthma and even pneumonia.
- Sometimes the patient might present with tooth decay when stomach acid frequently starts entering into the mouth.
Complications of GERD
Ulcers in the Food Pipe
Due to continuous leakage of acid into the food pipe, some patients may develop very uncomfortable, painful ulcers in the food pipe. These ulcers might bleed. As a result, patient may spit up or vomit blood. Some patients can also pass red or coffee colored stools.
Stricture or narrowing down of Food Pipe
When the acid reflux or GERD is present for a long time, the acidic contents can burn the food pipe. As a result, the food pipe narrows making food very painful to swallow. This condition is called stricture of food pipe or oesophagus.
Barrett’s esophagus : precancerous changes in Food Pipe
Barrett’s esophagus is a condition that develops in some people (about 10%) who have long-term GERD. It is a risk factor for cancer of the esophagus.
Although uncommon, Barrett’s esophagus may lead to esophageal cancer in some patients. Because of the cancer risk, people with Barrett’s esophagus are usually checked regularly with endoscopy. The goal of treatment of Barrett’s esophagus is to prevent further damage by stopping acid reflux from the stomach.
Evaluation and Diagnostic Tests for GERD
Apart from routine tests, the below mentioned 4 tests are essential for complete evaluation of the patient and decide further management of the GERD.