H Pylori Test
Given the vague nature of H pylori symptoms, you will have to get an H pylori test in order to confirm whether or not you have the disease.
Currently, there are several different diagnostic tests available which can be used to perform a Helicobacter test. These tests differ in accuracy and the invasiveness of the procedure.
As a result, the test your doctor may choose may depend on your stomach ulcer symptoms, your doctor’s working hypothesis, your insurance coverage, and the technology available.
It is important to confirm the presence of H pylori, as an ulcer in the absence of H pylori would have a much different treatment procedure. H pylori is primarily treated with antibiotics, whereas ulcers caused by NSAIDs, Aspirin, another bacteria, or a different factor would be treated differently.
With all that said, here are your different options for an H pylori test:
The most accurate way of testing for H pylori is via a biopsy. This involves taking a small tissue sample from stomach (around the ulcerated area) to check for presence of the H pylori bacteria.
The downside of a biopsy is that in order to get one, you actually have to go down the person’s esophagus, making it a very invasive procedure. This is only likely if your doctor opts for an endoscopy for diagnosis, as these procedures can be done simultaneously.
Many doctors will reserve this sort of testing for patients with more serious symptoms or have failed to respond standard treatments due to the high cost of the procedure.
The least invasive H pylori test is a breath test. This involves having the patient drink a urea-containing solution and then testing their breath. The solution creates a reaction in the presence of H pylori which can be then read with sophisticated equipment.
While not as accurate as a biopsy, this test is becoming more and more accurate and popular as technology improves. It is certainly much easier to conduct than a biopsy and gives immediate results.
The major problem with this test is that it can give a false positive so it is not 100% accurate. However, even a biopsy can give an errant result, so no test is perfect. As technology improves and is made more widely available, this is likely to become the H pylori test of choice in the majority of cases.
Blood and Stool Samples
One of the more old-fashioned ways of detecting H pylori are via blood and stool samples. Blood and stool are tested for the presence of antibodies and antigens which can indicate H pylori infection.
The main problem with these is that rather than giving a false-positive, these tests give a false negative. It is possible to have an H pylori infection without detectable levels showing up in the blood or stool.
As a result, these tests are falling out of favor as breath testing is proving to be the next best thing to a biopsy in the majority of cases. Some exceptions do exist as things like over the counter medication and recent use of certain prescription medicine can interfere with the breathing H pylori test.
H Pylori Test Conclusion
As you can see, there are a variety of tests available for H pylori and which one your doctor uses depends on your individual condition. If the the technology is available, the breath test is becoming increasingly popular, whereas the biopsy is still the most accurate test, albeit the most invasive.