In most cases, stomach ulcer is diagnosed by examining the physical symptoms and medical history of the patient. If required, endoscopy, H. pylori test, and barium contrast X-rays are conducted for proper diagnosis. The following article provides information regarding the same.
As a part of the normal digestion process, the stomach secretes certain acids to help break down the complex food molecules into simpler forms. To protect from these acids, there is a protective mucosal lining on the inner wall of the stomach and the duodenum. In case the mucosal lining is not working properly or is damaged, then the acids slowly erode the stomach wall. Over a period of time, it leads to a condition called stomach ulcer. Early diagnosis of this condition is imperative to avoid future medical complications.
The term ‘peptic ulcer’ is used to define ulcerative problems in both the stomach and the duodenum. Since it is usually asymptomatic (without symptoms), its diagnosis in the early stage is difficult. Also, many people do not have distinctive symptoms. A common complaint with this health condition is pain in the upper part of the abdomen, just underneath the sternum. Other symptoms are:
- Frequent regurgitation of food
- Bitter or unusual taste in mouth
- Tendency to vomit after eating
- Sharp abdominal pain
- Problem in swallowing food
- Blood tinge in vomit or stools
Diagnosis and Treatment
Though peptic ulcers affect people of both the genders, it is more common in women. A practical solution to avoid worsening of this condition is to diagnose it at the earliest possible stage. Once in the hospital or doctor’s clinic, the physician will examine the patient’s symptoms and go through his/her medical history. If suspected for stomach ulcer, the following diagnostic methods will be conducted to rule out other health conditions:
Gastrointestinal endoscopy or gastroscopy is a therapeutic procedure that involves visual examination of the gastrointestinal tract. A small, flexible tube, called catheter is introduced with a telescopic camera in the stomach (via mouth). As it traverses through the digestive tract, the doctor is able to visualize the inside of the stomach on a computer display. In this way, any abnormality in the stomach and duodenum area can be identified easily. During the procedure, a sample of the stomach lining is collected for laboratory testing.
Helicobacter pylori Test
Helicobacter pylori infection is found to be a major cause of this condition. Majority of the patients with the symptoms of this condition have H. pylori infection. This infection can be checked with the help of a blood test or a breath test. The blood test detects the presence of antibodies against the bacterium in the blood sample. If a person has had a H. pylori infection then his blood may contain these antibodies. This bacterium breaks down the urea present in the stomach into carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide is released from the body through the mouth. In the breath test this property of the bacterium is tested. The person is given a capsule which contains radioactive urea, and after a few minutes the presence of radioactive carbon dioxide is checked in the breath. If the person has this infection then his breath will contain radioactive carbon dioxide.
Barium Enema Procedure
Another commonly performed test is barium contrast X-ray. In this process, barium is injected in the stomach and duodenum portions, after which imaging is done. White barium liquid creates a contrasting effect, which helps in getting clear X-ray images. Barium enema procedure is useful to identify the size and severity of the ulcer. Also, duodenum ulcers that are difficult to observe by means of endoscopy are diagnosed with barium contrast X-rays.
An individual having a poor diet plan, and those who have a family history of this condition may develop stomach ulcer with time. Likewise, some people are at a higher risk of getting this painful condition. Factors that increase the probability of causing this ulcer are excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, side effects of certain medication, chronic medical condition, and stress.
According to medical reports, approximately 4 million Americans are diagnosed with stomach ulcers every year. More than 5,000 people die of complications caused by ulcer. The condition can be managed only if timely diagnosis is done. If diagnostic tests are positive, then do not delay the treatment. Follow a well-planned diet, make necessary lifestyle changes, and take proper medications for effectual management of the condition.