Peptic ulcers (gastric or duodenal) are treatable by a medical professional. This condition requires a medical diagnosis which usually involves lab tests or imaging tests such as endoscopy or barium swallow.
Use of endoscopy for peptic ulcers
Endoscopy is a nonsurgical procedure used to examine a person’s digestive tract while the patient is under sedation. Using an instrument called an endoscope, a flexible tube with a light and camera attached to it, your healthcare professional can view pictures of your digestive tract on a color TV monitor. During an upper endoscopy, the endoscope is gently passed through the mouth and throat and into the esophagus, allowing the doctor to view the esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the small intestine. Sometimes endoscopes are used in combination with ultrasound devices.
Endoscopic ultrasound combines the upper endoscopy and ultrasound examination so that your healthcare professional may compare and contrast the images and information about various parts of the digestive tract.
Healthcare professionals sometimes use other devices within an endoscope. These other devices include a variety of instruments that can be used to take a biopsy (removal of tissue), detect active bleeding from an ulcer and stop the bleeding, and remove polyps in the intestines. Even gallstones that have passed outside the gallbladder and into the bile duct can often be removed using endoscopic technology.
Barium testing for peptic ulcers
A barium swallow is a test that may be used to determine the cause and location of peptic (gastric or duodenal) ulcers. Barium tests may also be used to determine the cause of other conditions such painful swallowing, chronic heartburn and abdominal pain.
Barium sulfate is a metallic compound that shows up on X-rays and is used to help see abnormalities in the esophagus, stomach, and other parts of the digestive system. This test is sometimes called “an upper GI” meaning that it involves an examination of the upper part of the digestive system which includes the stomach.
Upper gastrointestinal tract radiography, also called an upper GI, is an x-ray examination of the esophagus, stomach and first part of the small intestine (also known as the duodenum). Images are produced using a special form of x-ray called fluoroscopy and an orally ingested contrast material such as barium.
When taking the imaging test, patients drink a preparation containing the barium solution. The X-rays track its path through your digestive system. These images are then reviewed by a healthcare professional and aid in the proper diagnosis and treatment plan. If your healthcare professional deems it necessary, you may be asked to take a follow-up test, a lower GI test, which examines the lower intestines and colon.
There are a number of other tests that are sometimes used to determine if a person has an ulcer in the lining of the stomach or intestines. These tests may include a breath test, a stool test, or a blood test. Most of the time, these tests are looking for the presence of bacteria, specifically, Helicobacter pylori also known as H. pylori, that have been associated with peptic ulcers. Some sources say these tests are not always conclusive and your healthcare professional will likely request a number of tests before making a diagnosis or proposing a treatment plan.