Diagnosing Gastritis – What To Expect

Self-diagnosing Gastritis is pretty impossible. Take a look at the common symptoms: nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, heartburn, belching, and bloating. All of these are symptoms of many other ailments, too, from serious illnesses to mild inconveniences. You may think you have gastritis when in fact you just have a simple heartburn that can be alleviated with a Rolaids tablet.

So in order to know whether gastritis is really what ails you, it is necessary to see a doctor and have him or her perform tests to arrive at a definitive diagnosis. There are a few different tests your doctor may run, or he or she might run some combination of them.

First is the upper gastrointestinal endoscopy. This sounds much more complicated than it is. The doctor simply takes an endoscope – which is a very skinny tube with a miniature camera affixed to it – inserts it down your throat and into your stomach. A monitor similar to a TV will show what the camera is seeing down there, and the doctor will investigate the condition of the stomach lining to see if it has been damaged. It's not particularly comfortable to have a tube down your throat, but it's not painful or tragic for most patients and they numb your throat first. The doctor might also take a small piece of tissue from your stomach lining to run tests on it, a process known as a biopsy.

The second test is a simple blood test. This is a rather roundabout way of diagnosing gastritis. What the doctor is checking for in the blood is to see if your red blood cell count is down. If it is, that's a condition known as anemia – and anemia is often caused by a bleeding stomach. Here, if you have anemia, it could mean you have gastritis or some other condition that is resulting in a damaged stomach lining.

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Finally, the third test is a stool test. You provide the doctor with a sample of your stool, and he or she tests it to see if there is blood present in it. If there is, it's a good sign that your stomach is bleeding. The doctor can also check the stool for the H. pylori bacterium, which is one of the leading causes of gastritis. If the bacterium is in the stool it means it's in the digestive tract and probably in the stomach, too, causing damage to the protective stomach linings.

If the cause is the H. pylori bacterium, solving gastritis is simply simple: Antibiotics kill the bacteria, and your symptoms go away. If the cause is something else, your doctor may prescribe other drugs to lower the amount of acid in your stomach. You may have to avoid certain foods and drinks, too, at least until your stomach has healed itself.