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Breath test: what it is for and how it is done

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

In medicine there are different methods by which your doctor can make a diagnosis. Among the most used and known, for example, we find hemograms or blood tests, stool or urine tests, different types of X-rays, physical examinations and many others, many times even being necessary to combine more than one to be able to make sure about to a certain diagnosis.

Among them is the breath test, which is useful when there is suspicion that a person may be suffering from certain digestive, metabolic or respiratory diseases. In this FastlyHealarticle we will explain what the breath test is: what it is for and how it is done so that you learn a little more about this diagnostic method that many people are unaware of.

How to do the breath test

The breath test is a very simple and straightforward procedure that does not cause any pain. Normally, the day you do the test should be on an empty stomach, as the doctor can take the opportunity to do a blood test. Once at the clinic, you should drink a glass of water that contains a capsule of some compound , depending on the test you want to perform. Generally, it is marked by carbon 14 so that when it passes into your stomach it will react to the different enzymes that you want to detect.

Once you have taken the pill, you will simply have to wait for at least 10 minutes and the medical professionals will ask you to breathe out in a small tube . In some ways, this test is very similar to roadside breathalyzer tests to detect whether drivers have drunk.

The expired breath will go to a balloon where it will be analyzed and shed light on the amount of carbon 14 dissolved in the air, obtaining the results that the doctor needs. Depending on the laboratory and the technology you have, the results may be obtained immediately or you may have to wait longer.

Helicobacter pylori breath test

When it becomes necessary to prove a presumptive diagnosis of infection with a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori , a breath test called a urea breath test can be used. This bacterium is often implicated in serious gastrointestinal conditions called gastric and duodenal ulcers, as well as other gastric disorders such as:

When a patient presents these symptoms and there are suspicions of the presence of the bacteria, the test is done to verify the diagnosis.

The test consists of ingesting urea, a compound which is metabolized by Helicobacter pylori, and the patient is asked to wait for about 10 minutes. After this time, you must exhale air through a tube to check for the presence of carbon dioxide product of the metabolism of urea by H. pylori, thus confirming the diagnosis and proceeding to apply the relevant treatments.

Breath test for carbohydrate intolerance

In this case, the test is carried out to determine if the carbohydrates that a patient ingests are absorbed by the body, or if they are taken up by bacteria and degraded to other compounds. Usually a positive result helps diagnose :

  • Fructose intolerance
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Intestinal bacterial overgrowth

All of these conditions generally cause symptoms such as gas build-up, pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and other related symptoms after consuming a certain carbohydrate.

The test is done in a similar way to perform any of the three diagnoses , but varying the compound used, which can be fructose or lactose in case of intolerance, and glucose for intestinal bacterial overgrowth. A capsule with the compound should be given to the patient and a breath test done every 15, 30 or 60 minutes for three hours. When the breath presents high levels of hydrogen, methane or both, the diagnosis is positive, which indicates that the carbohydrate is not absorbed by the body, but metabolized by bacteria and therefore producing gas.

Breath test for asthma

People who suffer from lung diseases related to an inflammatory process, as for example in the case of asthma, exhale increased levels of nitric oxide since this gas is produced by cells during an inflammatory process. Classically, asthma is associated with symptoms of respiratory distress, and some of the lung conditions that can be seen with this method include pulmonary arterial hypertension and acute respiratory distress syndrome.

The test consists of exhaling air through a mouthpiece into a device that will mix the product of respiration with ozone. If there is a high enough level of nitric oxide in the air, it reacts with ozone to create a reaction that produces light, which is a positive result for bronchial asthma or some other respiratory disorder.

Breath disorders due to diseases

Due to different reasons, various diseases can cause breath disturbances and halitosis that can help an experienced doctor to make a presumptive diagnosis:

  • The most common example of this is due to diabetes patients , as they typically produce breath that some describe as green apple-like.
  • The kidney failure causes alterations of breath and blood has excessive toxins and also because they can cause pulmonary abnormalities
  • The apnea sleep causes increased proliferation of bacteria as a result of being open mouth while allowing excessive proliferation of bacteria
  • The gastroesophageal reflux bad breath resulting from regurgitation of food
  • In oral or respiratory infections the accumulation of bacteria and pus can produce considerable halitosis.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Breath test: what it is for and how it is done , we recommend that you enter our category of Medication and medical tests .

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