If your health care professional suspects that you have a peptic ulcer, he or she may recommend one of the following tests:
A blood antibody test for evidence of H. pylori infection - This test is widely available and simple to do, and if the test is positive, treatment may be given without more invasive tests. However, the H. pylori blood test is not always accurate. For example, the test results may remain positive for years after an H. pylori infection has been treated. Another problem is that the test cannot tell whether an H. pylori infection has caused an ulcer. Newer tests that use breath or stool samples may be more accurate, but are not yet widely available.
An esophagogastroduodenoscopy, better known as an EGD or endoscopy - In this procedure a flexible, lighted tube with a tiny camera on the end is passed through your throat into your stomach and intestines. This allows your doctor to examine the walls of the stomach and duodenum. He or she also may snip off a small piece of the lining of the stomach for a biopsy, which is a close examination of the tissue in a laboratory.
An upper-gastrointestinal (GI) series - This test involves X-rays taken after you drink a chalky liquid that coats the esophagus, stomach and upper part of the intestine. An ulcer will show up on the X-rays as a crater. An upper GI series is sometimes less accurate than endoscopy for diagnosing peptic ulcers, but can be a useful and less invasive test under some circumstances.
Sometimes, more than one test is needed to diagnose your condition. If you have had a peptic ulcer in the past, your health care professional may recommend treatment without doing any diagnostic tests.
Ulcers caused by a medication should begin healing as soon as you stop taking the drug. Antacids or medications that limit the amount of acid your stomach produces may be used for two to six weeks to help healing and relieve pain.
Ulcers caused by H. pylori won't heal completely, or may heal and then return if the bacteria are not killed. Typically, you will take antibiotics and other medication for two weeks, then may take acid-suppressing medication for another four to eight weeks. Gastric ulcers tend to heal more slowly than duodenal ulcers. Most gastric ulcers take up to two or three months to heal completely, while duodenal ulcers take about six weeks. The H. pylori infection can return and cause another ulcer, particularly if the first infection is not eliminated completely.