diagnosing GERD: how an endoscopy works

The symptoms of GERD are not pleasant. Daily symptoms of heartburn, sour taste in your mouth, burping, chest pain, nausea, cough and asthma make daily tasks hard to complete. It causes you to feel awful, miss work, and have trouble keeping up with important commitments.

 Gastroesphogal reflux disease is something that often requires treatment by a doctor, but thankfully it’s a disease that is manageable once diagnosed.  Don’t let the symptoms of GERD ruin your life and turn it upside down. There are many different ways to diagnose the disease and find the best treatment for your situation, but one of the most common procedures used to diagnose GERD is an endoscopy.

When Is An Endoscopy Used?

An endoscopy is a nonsurgical procedure used to examine a person’s digestive tract. Doctors use endoscopies to determine why patients may be experiencing a variety of symptoms like difficulty swallowing, heartburn, weight loss, nighttime reflux, an ulcer, sour taste in the throat and mouth, etc. The procedure involves using an endoscope, a thin tube with a camera and light that is inserted into your mouth and lowered down your throat into your esophagus and stomach.

How Does An Endoscopy Work?

Endoscopies are nonsurgical procedures, and can be performed in either an inpatient or outpatient setting by your GI doctor. Endoscopies can sound scary to patients, but are often necessary to diagnose conditions like GERD.

The doctor will give you anesthesia to numb the back of your throat.  Intravenously, you will be given a sedative and pain reliever. The purpose is to make you relaxed and sleepy. The doctor inserts a mouthpiece in your mouth to make the endoscopy easier to insert. It keeps your mouth open and does not interfere with breathing.

 The patient is then asked to lie on their left side.  The doctor lubricates the endoscopy and inserts it through the mouth piece. It will take about 20 minutes to complete the procedure. During an endoscopy the doctor looks for abnormal growths, hernias, and damage to the lining of the stomach and esophagus. Often they look at the sphincter muscles in the esophagus to determine whether it is weak or strong, and your surgeon may take a biopsy of tissue to determine damage, infections, or cancer.

A capsule endoscopy is another type of endoscopy procedure. During this the patient swallows a capsule with a tiny camera. This procedure allows the doctor to see pictures of the esophagus and stomach lining that are downloaded to a recording device.  From there the doctor can see what the photos are showing and make a diagnosis. The small capsule is ejected 24 hours after with a bowel movement. It takes about 20 minutes to do this procedure.  Some doctors use a string on the capsule to retrieve it. This procedure is incredibly useful for screening for GERD, and a less intimidating alternative to a traditional endoscopy.

What to Do Before An Endoscopy

Patients should avoid eating or drinking for at least six hours before the procedure, since it’s essential that they have an empty stomach when it is performed. Tell your doctor about any medications or supplements you are currently taking, to make sure they won’t interfere with the test.  You may have to adjust your medications or wait until after the procedure that day to take them.

What To Do After An Endoscopy

After the procedure you will stay in the recovery room for at least an hour so that you can be monitored for any post-procedure side effects. You may find that you have a sore throat, feel bloated or have a stomach ache after the procedure is completed. Don’t feel alarmed, this is perfectly normal!

The doctor may discuss results with you immediately following the procedure, but official test results will be sent to your primary care doctor or specialist that wanted the test done. If you experience serious symptoms after the procedure like bleeding, chest pains, fever, chills, or chronic coughing, you should seek medical help immediately. You’ll also need to arrange for a friend or family member (or your local Uber driver) to drive you home that day because they use anesthesia for the procedure, which produces a sedative effect.

When you suffer from symptoms of GERD regularly, an endoscopy can be key to determining exactly what’s wrong and how to treat it. Contact a specialist to schedule an appointment and put an end to suffering from these needless symptoms. An endoscopy may sound scary at first, but it’s a lot less terrifying than living the next 50 years of your life suffering from GERD symptoms. 

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