Your GP can diagnose a stomach ulcer based on your symptoms.
They'll ask you if you're taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They may refer you for tests for a Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection.
Your GP may refer you to hospital for a gastroscopy. This is a procedure to look inside your stomach.
Testing for H. pylori infection
If your GP thinks an H. pylori infection causes your symptoms, they may recommend tests.
Tests for an H. pylori infection include:
- urea breath tests – H. pylori breaks down urea into carbon molecules. You swallow a pill or a drink that contains urea and your breath is tested for carbon molecules
- poo antigen tests – a small sample of your poo is tested for the bacteria
- blood tests – a sample of your blood is tested for antibodies to the H. pylori bacteria
Antibodies are proteins made in your blood that help to fight infection. Breath and poo tests are better at detecting H. pylori infections.
If you test positive for H. pylori, you'll need treatment for the infection. Treatment can heal the ulcer and stop it from coming back.
Your GP may refer you for a gastroscopy. This is a procedure to look inside your stomach to check for a stomach ulcer. The procedure takes about 15 minutes.
A doctor will use an endoscope to look inside your stomach. An endoscope is a thin, flexible tube with a camera and a light at one end. The camera sends images to a monitor.
The images taken by the camera can confirm or rule out an ulcer.
In some cases, your doctor will take a small sample of tissue from your stomach or duodenum. They'll test the sample for the H. pylori bacteria.
A gastroscopy is usually an outpatient procedure. This means you do not need to spend the night in the hospital.
Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE