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Lactose intolerance testing

Donations fund testing equipment for State College area

For many children a carton of milk during school lunch or an ice cream cone on a nice day may result in abdominal pain or cramps. Kids feeling this type of discomfort may be suffering from lactose intolerance, which is a problem with the body digesting lactose, the sugar in milk products.

Most times doctors empirically treat these symptoms with a lactose-free diet or with the addition of a dietary supplement. Diagnosis most times is made in patients if there are other digestive factors that lead to an upper endoscopy.

At large medical centers, like Geisinger, there are special machines to test for lactose intolerance. Now thanks to Children's Miracle Network at Geisinger this specialized equipment is now available at Geisinger Gray's Woods. This year a Hydrogen Breath Analysis machine was purchased with Children's Miracle Network donations.

"Most times doctors would recommend dietary changes or would have to send patients to Danville for diagnosis," said Becky Heltman, a licensed practical nurse at Gray's Woods. "Now this equipment is here for our Gastroenterology Outreach Clinic and general pediatrics."

During the test, the patient blows into a balloon which takes a baseline reading of the patient's breath. After drinking a prescribed lactose solution, the patient then continues to be tested every 30 minutes for 3 hours to measure the amount of hydrogen in the breath.

Hydrogen is produced when undigested lactose makes its way to the intestines. Raised hydrogen levels indicate that improper digestion of lactose is happening and could determine if a patient is lactose intolerant.

"Thanks to Children's Miracle Network, we now have this special equipment available here in the State College area," Heltman said. "This is a great convenience to our patients who will no longer need to drive to Danville for testing."