A few different tests may be done to help diagnose a peptic ulcer, identify the cause, detect complications, and help determine appropriate treatment.
- One or more Helicobacter pylori tests may be performed to detect an infection.
- A stool sample may be collected to look for the H. pylori antigen; however, this test is not appropriate for individuals who have blood in their stool.
- A breath test known as the "urea breath test" is also available and detects the enzyme produced by H. pylori.
- A blood test for H. pylori antibodies may be done; however, this test is not recommended by major health organizations because it cannot distinguish a current infection from a past one. If positive, additional testing is usually required.
- Tissue biopsy – this requires a procedure called an endoscopy (see below). Tissue is removed from the stomach during the endoscopy and may be examined under a microscope for the presence of active H. pylori infection, cultured, or tested for urease, the enzyme produced by the bacteria.
- Hemoglobin testing may be performed to check for anemia.
- Fecal occult blood test may be done to check for blood in the stool.
- Gastrin test may be done if someone has recurrent ulcers, to help determine the cause.
Some invasive procedures may be used to diagnose an ulcer. These include:
- Upper GI – a series of x-rays of the gastrointestinal tract
- Endoscopy – a tiny camera on the end of a thin tube is fed through the mouth, down the esophagus, to the duodenum; if necessary, tissue biopsies may be taken at this time.
- Computerized tomography (CT) – uses x-rays and computers to generate images
For more on these, see RadiologyInfo.org.