Also known as a urea breath test (UBT), this test checks your breath to see whether you have an infection caused by Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a bacterial infection of the stomach. This infection is the most common chronic bacterial infection in the world.
Over time H. pylori can result in the formation of ulcers in your stomach and the duodenum (the first portion of the small intestine). If left untreated, H. pylori is a risk factor for the development of stomach cancer.
You may have H. pylori and be asymptomatic, i.e., without the presence of ulcers or digestive issues. A breath test can diagnose a H. pylori infection.
Is a Breath Test for H. pylori Right For You?
If you're experiencing the following symptoms of H. pylori infection, schedule an appointment with a board-certified gastroenterologist:
- Upper abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Dark or black stools
- Feeling of fullness after eating a small amount of food
If your stomach or intestinal ulcers start to bleed, it can lead to serious symptoms such as:
- Bloody stool
- Trouble breathing
- Pale skin color
- Vomiting blood
- Severe stomach pain
If any of these occur, seek medical attention right away.
H. pylori Breath Tests are Safe When Performed by a Board-Certified Physician
A urea breath test involves drinking a liquid with urea in it. Your doctor will then ask you to breathe into a bag which will be sent to the lab to test. The test typically takes less than 30 minutes.
The presence of H. pylori in your body changes the urea into carbon dioxide—high levels of carbon dioxide in your breath sample indicate the presence of H. pylori infection.