It may be time to contact your healthcare provider if you have persistent or recurring heartburn that isn’t relieved with lifestyle changes or antacids. As you prepare for your visit, it’s a good idea to create a list of questions to discuss with your doctor. This will help you to understand your diagnosis and identify the right treatment.
Symptoms and Causes
What is causing my symptoms?
Acid reflux either can be due to heartburn or can be a sign of something more serious, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Knowing the cause of your symptoms can help determine the treatment.
Are there any conditions other than GERD that could be causing my symptoms?
Some of the symptoms of acid reflux, such as sore throat, trouble swallowing, or tightness in the chest, are also signs of other conditions. Your provider should rule out any other possible causes before settling on a diagnosis.
Do I need to see a gastroenterologist?
A gastroenterologist is a doctor who specializes in problems with the digestive system. Your physician may refer you to a gastroenterologist if your diagnosis is more complicated.
Tests and Procedures
What tests or procedures will need to be done if I have acid reflux?
Your doctor may not need to perform any tests to determine if you have acid reflux or GERD. A diagnosis is usually made based on symptoms. However, your doctor may prescribe a barium swallow radiograph (X-ray), an upper endoscopy, or a pH monitoring exam if medication doesn’t relieve your symptoms.
Where can I take these tests or have these procedures performed?
Tests such as the pH monitoring exam or upper endoscopy can be performed in a physician’s office. A barium swallow radiograph or an X-ray of the esophagus may need to be done in another facility with X-ray equipment.
Are these tests covered by insurance?
Your insurance plan will determine if these tests are covered. Before agreeing to any tests or procedures, call your insurance company to find out if they’re covered or are affordable.
What medications will I need to take?
Acid reflux is usually treated with antacids. Chances are, your doctor will prescribe you a medication to take along with an antacid if you have GERD. There is no cure for GERD and treatments can differ from person to person. The main medications prescribed to treat GERD are antacids, H2 receptor antagonists (H2RAs), and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).
What are the side effects of these medications?
Antacids, H2Ras, and PPIs can all have side effects. Ask your doctor what these effects are so you can be prepared.
Are these medications covered by insurance?
Ask your insurance company if these medications are covered. Some medications for GERD are available over the counter (OTC), but your insurance may not cover the cost without a prescription. Also, ask if there are generic versions available, which are usually more affordable.
I am taking medications for other conditions. How will these affect the medications for GERD?
Some medications for GERD may inhibit or decrease the action of other medications. Tell your physician if you’re taking clopidogrel to prevent heart attacks or strokes.
Are there any non-pharmacological treatments for GERD?
Endoscopic treatment is another possibility. Ask your doctor if this treatment can be considered for your case of GERD.
When is surgery a consideration?
Surgery may be the preferred method of treatment for GERD in some cases. Ask your doctor about your situation and if surgery will help.
What lifestyle changes do I need to make to get better?
You’ll probably need to make some lifestyle changes, including smoking cessation, weight loss, and change in diet or other habits that can affect GERD. Work with your doctor to determine what changes you need to make.
How often do I need to see the doctor?
Find out from your doctor how often you need to come in for follow-up visits and what you should do to prepare for them. Some doctors may also ask you to keep a food diary to assess what worsens your acid reflux.
What signs or symptoms indicate that I need to visit the emergency room or call a doctor?
Side effects of medications can be serious or minor. Find out which symptoms necessitate an immediate call to your doctor or the emergency department.