Information on Symptoms & Types of Test For Gastric Ulcer

Submitted on March 27, 2012

A gastric ulcer or gastritis occurs due to an erosion of the stomach lining. The stomach produces strong acids to help in the digestion of food. Damage to the lining of the stomach can cause severe irritation as the acids directly start acting on the stomach walls. There are many factors that can cause the stomach lining to get eroded. One of the most common reasons for gastric ulcer is a bacterium called Helicobacter Pylori or H. Pylori.

In some severe cases, the lining gets corroded to an extent where it makes a hole in the stomach wall. This condition is known as a perforation and is a medical emergency. Individuals who consume excessive alcohol, smoke cigarettes, and use products that contain tobacco are at a high risk of developing gastric ulcer. Regular use of some medicines such as Aspirin, Ibuprofen, and Naproxen can also increase the risk of gastric ulcers.

Symptoms of Gastric Ulcer

Symptoms of gastric ulcer are unique to most individuals and the most common ones are

  • Abdominal pain
  • Belching
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Heartburn
  • Indigestion
  • Nausea
  • Sever vomiting that may sometimes contain blood
  • Loss of body weight
  • Dark stools

There are different ways to identify a gastric ulcer. Some of the most common methods used are blood tests, breath tests, tissue tests, and barium tests.

Types of Tests Conducted

Blood test

A blood test is an easy and inexpensive way to identify a gastric ulcer. The test uses methods like ELISA (enzyme inked immunosorbent assay) to see if the body has enough antibodies to fight the H. Pylori. Although convenient, these tests may produce false results.

Breath test

This is also called a gastric ulcer urea breath test. The patient is asked to consume urea and carbon prior to the test. The H. Pylori bacteria breaks down this combination, which results in carbon being absorbed into the blood stream, which is released as carbon dioxide by the lungs. The exhaled carbon dioxide is analyzed for H. Pylori. The results of this test are almost 90% accurate.

Tissue test

The tissue test is typically done after a breath test to confirm the gastric ulcer condition. This test involves collection of samples of cells from the stomach walls by means of an endoscopy. The cells are then further analyzed under a microscope to confirm if the individual has a gastric ulcer.

Barium test

This test is also called a barium swallow because the patient is asked to swallow a solution that contains barium, prior to the test. This solution coats the walls of the esophagus and stomach. After this, an x-ray is taken that highlights the areas that have been coated by barium. This method is most effective to identify tumors, hernias, pouches, strictures, and other problems with the gastrointestinal tract. It is also used to identify the presence of a gastric ulcer.

If a gastric ulcer has been detected, the doctor would normally recommend acid blockers to reduce the acid levels or antibiotics to kill H. Pylori.