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How To Diagnose Stomach Problems

What Is A Mouth Ulcer

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Many people get mouth ulcers sometimes called canker sores or aphthous ulcers. These are a sore or blister that appears in the lining of the mouth and sometimes on the tongue. Mouth ulcers are not serious and usually clear up on their own.

A mouth ulcer is a hole in the lining of the mouth that develops when the top layer of cells breaks down. Some may be red, but some can also turn white as dead cells and food get in the center. A blister can also appear as a raised sore filled with clear fluid.

Digestive Diagnostic Procedures For Children

To diagnose digestive and liver problems, your child’s doctor will do a thorough medical history and physical exam to help assess the problem more completely.

Some children may need to undergo a more extensive diagnostic evaluation, which may include lab tests, imaging tests, or endoscopic procedures. These tests may include any, or all, of the following:

Components Of The Digestive Tract

Problems can occur with any part of the digestive tract and affect overall digestive function. When you eat food, digestion is an automatic process that breaks the food into small parts so it can be used in a nutrient form within the body. These nutrients are necessary for energy, and they can also be used as building blocks on a cellular level.

The food enters your mouth and moves down the esophagus, where it reaches the stomach. Then the digestive process continues as the food particles move through the large and small intestines. The liver, gallbladder, and pancreas are also important elements that affect the function of the digestive tract.

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Whats A Diagnostic Test

A diagnostic test is any procedure used to confirm or rule out suspected conditions. To reach a diagnosis, your doctor might ask you to undergo more than one diagnostic test. These tests can be invasive and non-invasive, simple and complex, but all of these diagnostic tests are crucial for identifying and treating conditions and learning more about symptoms.

If you are experiencing gastrointestinal issues, whether that be bloating, abdominal pain, trouble passing stool, difficulty swallowing or something else entirely, reach out to your GP as soon as possible.

These diagnostic tests are overwhelmingly safe and effective at identifying the cause of digestive issues, especially when combined. Whilst some may sound unpleasant, sedatives and anaesthetic mean you will not feel pain throughout. At most these can be uncomfortable, at best they can be lifesaving.

Below, we will look at some common diagnostic tests for digestive health, including which digestive organs they can inspect, what diseases they can help diagnose and what the procedures entail. The tests are broken down into five categories: Breath, Faecal, Imaging, Endoscopy and Manometry:

Medical History Physical Exam And Tests To Look For Bleeding

Stomach Pains

When taking your medical history, the doctor will ask about your symptoms and possible risk factors to see if they might suggest stomach cancer or another cause. The physical examcan give your doctor information about possible signs of stomach cancer or other health problems. In particular, the doctor will feel your belly for anything abnormal.

The doctor might order a blood test to look for anemia , which could be caused by the cancer bleeding into the stomach. A test might also be done to look for blood in your stool that can’t be seen by the naked eye, which could also be a sign of bleeding in the stomach.

If your doctor thinks you might have stomach cancer or another type of stomach problem, they will likely refer you to a gastroenterologist , who will examine you and might do further testing.

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What Causes Digestive Issues

Most of the time, no one thing triggers gastrointestinal problems, and often, GI symptoms aren’t spontaneous. Many people develop digestive issues slowly, when a combination of factors worsens over time. Any of these seven elements could be affecting your digestion:

Diet: Obviously, what you eat impacts your entire GI tract. If you’re allergic to or sensitive to certain foods, your body may revolt in the form of upset digestion.

Hydration: Nothing works well when you’re dehydrated. Water acts as a lubricant for all organ systems and helps your body maintain homeostasis.

Sleep: Lack of sleep affects every part of your body, including your digestive system — and all the hormones that dictate its functions. Studies show that short sleep duration alters the levels of important digestive hormones and that poor sleep harms the healthy bacteria in your microbiome.

Stress: You may not intuitively equate stress with an upset stomach, but research tells us that millions of neurons in your gut communicate with the billions of neurons in your brain along something called the gut-brain axis. When you’re stressed, you also produce excess cortisol, which can trigger a handful of digestive reactions.

Microbiome dysfunction: Your gut contains two kinds of bacteria: friendly and unfriendly. If the bad bugs outweigh the good ones, your risk for all kinds of digestive issues increases.

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How Are Ulcers Diagnosed

To diagnose a peptic ulcer, doctors do an exam, ask about symptoms, and take a medical history. If you have stomach pain or other symptoms of an ulcer, the doctor will do some tests.

One test is called an upper gastrointestinal series. These are X-rays of the stomach, duodenum, and esophagus, the muscular tube that links the mouth to the stomach. A person drinks a liquid called barium while getting an X-ray. If theres an ulcer, it should show up on the X-ray.

Another common test to look for an ulcer is an endoscopy . A person is sedated for this procedure. Then, the doctor puts an endoscope a small, flexible tube with a tiny camera on the end down the throat and into the stomach and duodenum. The doctors can see the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum to check for possible ulcers.

A doctor also can do a blood test that looks for H. pylori bacteria. This may be important if the upper GI series showed an ulcer. The blood test can be done right in the doctorâs office. Sometimes doctors test a poop sample or a personâs breath to check for the H. pylori bacteria.

What Is A Peptic Ulcer

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A peptic ulcer is a break in the inner lining of the esophagus, stomach, or duodenum. A peptic ulcer of the stomach is called a gastric ulcer of the duodenum, a duodenal ulcer and of the esophagus, an esophageal ulcer. Peptic ulcers occur when the lining these organs is eroded by the acidic digestive juices that the cells of the lining secrete of the stomach secrete. A peptic ulcer differs from an erosion because it extends deeper into the lining and incites more of an inflammatory reaction from the tissues that are involved, occasionally with scaring. Peptic ulcer also is referred to as peptic ulcer disease.

Peptic ulcer disease is common, affecting millions of Americans yearly. Moreover, peptic ulcers are a recurrent problem even healed ulcers can recur unless treatment is directed at preventing their recurrence. The medical cost of treating peptic ulcer and its complications runs into billions of dollars annually. Recent medical advances have increased our understanding of ulcer formation. Improved and expanded treatment options now are available.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Peptic Ulcers

Each persons symptoms may vary. In some cases ulcers dont cause any symptoms.

The most common ulcer symptom is a dull or burning pain in your belly between your breastbone and your belly button . This pain often occurs around meal times and may wake you up at night. It can last from a few minutes to a few hours.

Less common ulcer symptoms may include:

  • Feeling full after eating a small amount of food
  • Bloody or black stool

Peptic ulcer symptoms may look like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider to be sure.

Not Drinking Enough Water

Water is important to your digestive health because it helps cleanse the whole gastrointestinal tract. In particular, water softens the stool, helping prevent constipation. More crucially, water is known to aid your digestive system by helping break down food, assisting the GI tract to absorb nutrients faster and more effectively. If you donât drink enough water, you are inviting all sorts of digestive problems.

You can increase your intake of water by drinking unsweetened coffee, tea, or even sparkling water to get to those 8 glasses of liquid a day! Just avoid sugary drinks like soda!

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Circulating Tumor Cell Test

A circulating tumor cell test can check for blood biomarkers that show whether normal cells are transforming into cancer cells. CTC tests can help diagnose and screen patients who have a risk of developing cancer, such as a family history of the disease.

CTC tests are helpful in the early detection of cancer as well as monitoring treatment effectiveness over time. The only test currently approved for this purpose is called CellSearch CTC, which offers different prostate, colorectal, and breast cancer assays.

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Presence Of Blood In Stool


When the person uses the toilet, he may experience and be surprised with the presence of a blood in the stool discharge. It is one of the most well-known symptoms of a bleeding ulcer.

If the person goes for a long call of nature and notices dark red traces of blood in the feces, he should seek medical assistance. Blood traces in the stool of a given individual is reasonable enough to believe that he may be experiencing a problem of bleeding ulcers within the digestive track.

It is important to note that blood in the stool is an indicative sign and symptom of internal bleeding ulcers that needs to be confirmed through examinations by a medical professional.

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When To See A Doctor

It’s best to discuss any ongoing GI issues with a doctor. Pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea affect everyone from time to time, but if these are a regular occurrence, it’s not normal. Importantly, anytime you have blood in your stool, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.

Treating GI issues doesn’t just help relieve the immediate stomach or lower abdominal distress. Research shows the body’s gastrointestinal system plays a large role in your overall health.

Talk to your regular doctor first. However, you may be recommended to a gastroenterologist, a doctor who specializes in diseases and disorders of the digestive tract.

How Can I Prevent A Stomach Ulcer From Occurring Or Returning

  • Reduce NSAID use, if possible. Consider whether acetaminophen might substitute. If you take NSAIDs for medical reasons, talk to your doctor about reducing your dosage or switching your medication. Your doctor may also prescribe another medicine to take with NSAIDs to protect your stomach lining.
  • Reduce other irritants that may contribute to too much stomach acid or erode your stomach lining, including smoking and alcohol use.
  • Take an H. pylori breath test to find out if you have an overgrowth of the bacteria.

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Diagnosis Of Stomach Cancer

Diagnosing stomach cancer usually begins with a visit to your family doctor. Your doctor will ask you about any symptoms you have and do a physical exam. Based on this information, your doctor may refer you to a specialist or order tests to check for stomach cancer or other health problems.

The process of diagnosis may seem long and frustrating. Its normal to worry, but try to remember that other health conditions can cause similar symptoms as stomach cancer. Its important for the healthcare team to rule out other reasons for a health problem before making a diagnosis of stomach cancer.

The following tests are commonly used to rule out or diagnose stomach cancer. Many of the same tests used to diagnose cancer are used to find out the stage, which is how far the cancer has progressed. Your doctor may also order other tests to check your general health and to help plan your treatment.

Positron Emission Tomography Scan

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A PET scan can be useful to help determine the extent of the cancer in the body. For this test, you are injected with a slightly radioactive form of sugar, which collects mainly in cancer cells. A special camera is then used to create a picture of areas of radioactivity in the body. The picture is not detailed like a CT or MRI scan, but a PET scan can look for possible areas of cancer spread in all areas of the body at once.

Many newer machines can do both a PET and CT scan at the same time . This lets the doctor see areas that âlight upâ on the PET scan in more detail.

Although PET scans can be useful for finding areas of cancer spread, they arenât always helpful in certain kinds of stomach cancer because some types donât take up much of the radioactive sugar.

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What Tests Will Help You Reach A Diagnosis

After assessing your symptoms and medical history, your doctor will have a better idea of which tests are most likely to lead to a diagnosis. These tests matter because many disorders of the digestive tract have overlapping symptoms and can be misdiagnosed.

Careful testing will help guide your doctor to the correct diagnosis.

Some GI tests are:

  • abdominal imaging tests using ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI
  • barium swallow, or upper GI series, using X-rays to look at your upper GI tract
  • upper GI endoscopy to diagnose and treat problems in your upper GI tract
  • barium enema, an imaging test that uses X-rays to look at your lower GI tract
  • sigmoidoscopy, a test to check the lower part of your colon
  • colonoscopy, a procedure that checks the inside of your entire large intestine
  • fecal, urine, and blood analysis
  • pancreatic function tests

Further questions to ask about testing:

  • Whats the procedure like? Is it invasive? Do I have to do anything to prepare?
  • How and when can I expect results?
  • Will the results be definitive or is it just to exclude something?

Tests To Measure Stomach Emptying

Your doctor may perform one of more of the following tests to see how fast your stomach is emptying its contents.

  • Gastric emptying scan, also called gastric emptying scintigraphy. For this test, you eat a bland mealsuch as eggs or an egg substitutethat contains a small amount of radioactive material. A camera outside your body scans your abdomen to show where the radioactive material is located. By tracking the radioactive material, a health care professional can measure how fast your stomach empties after the meal. The scan usually takes about 4 hours.
  • Gastric emptying breath test. For this test, you eat a meal that contains a substance that is absorbed in your intestines and eventually passed into your breath. After you eat the meal, a health care professional collects samples of your breath over a period of a few hoursusually about 4 hours. The test can show how fast your stomach empties after the meal by measuring the amount of the substance in your breath.
  • Wireless motility capsule, also called a SmartPill. The SmartPill is a small electronic device that you swallow. The capsule moves through your entire digestive tract and sends information to a recorder hung around your neck or clipped to your belt. A health care professional uses the information to find out how fast or slow your stomach empties, and how fast liquid and food move through your small intestine and large intestine. The capsule will pass naturally out of your body with a bowel movement.

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Early Signs Of Digestive Problems

Some people experience small digestive issues that increase in severity with time. In other cases, digestive discomfort happens quickly and stays consistent. Every person is unique, which is why the symptoms can vary from one person to the next.

The first signs of gastrointestinal issues often include one or more of these symptoms:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Pain in the abdominal area
  • Weight loss or gain

These symptoms might range from mild to serious, and could be caused by a range of digestive diseases. When the pain is severe and/or chronic, the best solution is to consult with an experienced gastrointestinal doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

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