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Gastritis Diagnosis

Gastritis Diagnosis
Causes and Risk Factors

If you suspect that you are experiencing gastritis, you can start by first seeing a family doctor or general practitioner. However, in some cases when setting up an appointment, you may be referred to a specialist in digestive disorders called a gastroenterologist. Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions such as restricting your diet, before you visit a doctor or gastroenterologist. 

Medical history
Typically, a gastritis diagnosis is made based on a description of symptoms. If a diagnosis is not possible based on this information, other methods are used. To prepare for your office visit, write down symptoms you are experiencingincluding any that may seem unrelated to gastritis. Also, write down key personal information, including major stresses or recent life changes. Bring a list of all medications, vitamins, or supplements that are currently being taken. Be sure to tell inform your doctor about any stomach problems that occur after taking any prescription or over-the-counter drugs, especially aspirin or other pain relievers.  A doctor is likely to ask a number of questions related to gastritis during a medical history. For example, the doctor may ask:

  • Does anything seem to improve symptoms? (eating certain foods, or taking antacids or over-the-counter remedies)
  • Does anything seem to worsen symptoms? (eating certain foods)
  • Have symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • Have you experienced any recent weight loss?
  • How often do you take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen?
  • How severe are symptoms?
  • How would you describe symptoms?
  • What symptoms are you experiencing?

Medical exams
Although a doctor is likely to suspect gastritis after taking a medical history along with a thorough physical exam, s/he may also order tests to pinpoint the exact cause. In the strictest definition, gastritis is diagnosed when a pathologist sees evidence of inflammation and damage to the stomach lining from a biopsy specimen taken during endoscopy. Along with a complete medical history and physical exam, diagnostic procedures for gastritis may include the following:

Blood tests - The doctor may order a blood test to check for the presence of H. pylori antibodies. A positive test doesn't necessarily indicate a current infection. Blood tests can also measure red blood cells to check for anemia, a condition during which there are not enough red blood cells present in the blood, which can cause gastritis.

Breath test - This simple test can help determine whether someone is currently infected with H. pylori bacteria, or not.

Gastroscopy - During this procedure, a thin tube with a camera, called a gastroscope, is inserted through the mouth down into the stomach to examine the stomach lining. The doctor looks for inflammation of the lining and may remove a tiny sample of the lining for testing (known as a biopsy).

Stool tests - This test checks for H. pylori in a stool sample. A positive test suggests current infection. The doctor may also test for blood in the stool, a sign of stomach bleeding that can accompany gastritis. Abnormal bacteria from the digestive tract that cause diarrhea and other problems may also be present.

Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy - This procedure allows the doctor to see abnormalities in the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract that may not be visible on x-rays. During an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, doctors insert a thin, flexible, lighted tube (endoscope) through the mouth and into the esophagus, stomach and the first part of the small intestine. If any tissue in the upper intestinal tract looks suspicious, a small sample (biopsy) can be removed using instruments inserted through the endoscope. The sample is then sent to a lab for examination by a pathologist.

Upper gastrointestinal x-ray - X-rays of the stomach and small intestine can indicate signs of gastritis and other digestive problems. These images are often taken after swallowing a liquid (barium) that coats the lining of the digestive tract, to make it show up more clearly on the X-rays.

Doctors recommend lifestyle changes, such as avoiding the long-term use of irritants (aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs, coffee, and alcohol to help prevent gastritis and its complications (such as a peptic ulcer). Stress reduction through relaxation techniques can also be helpful. Keep reading here to learn more about gastritis treatments.

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Tags: gastritis, gastroenterologist, anti-inflammatory, stomach problems, gastrointestinal, small intestine, complications, prescription, blood tests, medications, treatments, blood test, diagnosis, infection, endoscopy, procedure, ibuprofen, intestine, bacteria, infected
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