What Is Peptic Ulcer Disease
Peptic ulcer disease is a condition in which painful sores or ulcers develop in the lining of the stomach or the first part of the small intestine . Normally, a thick layer of mucus protects the stomach lining from the effect of its digestive juices. But many things can reduce this protective layer, allowing stomach acid to damage the tissue.
How Common Are Stomach Ulcers
Stomach ulcers are very common in Western countries. In the United States, there are about 4 million cases per year. Some estimates say that 1 in 10 people will have one at some point in their lives. Thats because many of the causes that contribute to stomach ulcers are common in Western life. Fortunately, these causes are usually easy to trace and to reverse, giving ulcers a chance to heal and your stomach lining a chance to repair.
How Can I Prevent A Stomach Ulcer From Occurring Or Returning
- Reduce NSAID use, if possible. Consider whether acetaminophen might substitute. If you take NSAIDs for medical reasons, talk to your doctor about reducing your dosage or switching your medication. Your doctor may also prescribe another medicine to take with NSAIDs to protect your stomach lining.
- Reduce other irritants that may contribute to too much stomach acid or erode your stomach lining, including smoking and alcohol use.
- Take an H. pylori breath test to find out if you have an overgrowth of the bacteria.
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How Are Peptic Ulcers Diagnosed
Your healthcare provider will look at your past health and give you a physical exam. You may also have some tests.
Imaging tests used to diagnose ulcers include:
- Upper GI series or barium swallow. This test looks at the organs of the top part of your digestive system. It checks your food pipe , stomach, and the first part of the small intestine . You will swallow a metallic fluid called barium. Barium coats the organs so that they can be seen on an X-ray.
- Upper endoscopy or EGD . This test looks at the lining of your esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. It uses a thin lighted tube called an endoscope. The tube has a camera at one end. The tube is put into your mouth and throat. Then it goes into your esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. Your health care provider can see the inside of these organs. A small tissue sample can be taken. This can be checked for H. pylori.
You may also have the following lab tests to see if you have an H. pylori infection:
What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Peptic Ulcers
Stomach pain is the most common sign of an ulcer. It usually feels like sharp aches between the breastbone and the belly button. This pain often comes a few hours after eating. It can also happen during the night or early in the morning, when the stomach is empty. Eating something or taking acid suppressor medicine sometimes eases the pain.
Other symptoms of ulcers can include:
- loss of appetite
- burping or hiccupping a lot
- weight loss
- bloody or blackish bowel movements
Anyone who thinks they might have an ulcer needs to see a doctor. An ulcer thats not treated can grow larger and deeper. This can lead to other problems, such as bleeding in the digestive system or a hole in the wall of the stomach or duodenum, which can make someone very sick.
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Can Peptic Ulcers Be Prevented
Doctors arent sure how H. pylori bacteria spread from person to person. The bacteria have been found in saliva , so kissing may be one way. They also may spread through food, water, or contact with vomit thats infected with the bacteria.
Regular use of NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal problems and bleeding in some people. Acetaminophen does not cause stomach ulcers and is a good alternative to NSAIDs.
As with many infections, washing your hands well and often is an important part of ulcer prevention. This is extra important after you use the bathroom and before you eat. And take good care of your body by exercising regularly and not smoking or drinking.
What Are The Symptoms Of Peptic Ulcers
Each persons symptoms may vary. In some cases ulcers dont cause any symptoms.
The most common ulcer symptom is a dull or burning pain in your belly between your breastbone and your belly button . This pain often occurs around meal times and may wake you up at night. It can last from a few minutes to a few hours.
Less common ulcer symptoms may include:
- Feeling full after eating a small amount of food
- Bloody or black stool
- Vomiting blood
Peptic ulcer symptoms may look like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider to be sure.
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How Are Stomach Ulcers Diagnosed
Diagnosis and treatment will depend on your symptoms and the severity of your ulcer. To diagnose a stomach ulcer, your doctor will review your medical history along with your symptoms and any prescription or over-the-counter medications youre taking.
To rule out H. pylori infection, a blood, stool, or breath test may be ordered. With a breath test, youll be instructed to drink a clear liquid and breathe into a bag, which is then sealed. If H. pylori is present, the breath sample will contain higher-than-normal levels of carbon dioxide.
Other tests and procedures used to diagnose stomach ulcers include:
- Barium swallow: You drink a thick white liquid that coats your upper gastrointestinal tract and helps your doctor see your stomach and small intestine on X-rays.
- Endoscopy : A thin, lighted tube is inserted through your mouth and into the stomach and the first part of the small intestine. This test is used to look for ulcers, bleeding, and any tissue that looks abnormal.
- Endoscopic biopsy: A piece of stomach tissue is removed so it can be analyzed in a lab.
What Tests Will Be Done To Diagnose A Peptic Ulcer
Endoscopy. An upper endoscopy exam is expedient because allows healthcare providers to see inside your digestive tract and also take a tissue sample to analyze in the lab. The test is done by passing a thin tube with a tiny camera attached down your throat and into your stomach and duodenum. Youll have medication to numb your throat and help you relax during the test. Your healthcare provider may use the endoscope to take a tissue sample to test for signs of mucous damage, anemia, H. pylori infection or malignancy. If they take a sample, you wont feel it.
Imaging tests. Imaging tests to look inside the stomach and small intestine include:
- Upper GI series. An upper GI X-ray exam examines the stomach and duodenum through X-rays. Its less invasive than an endoscopy. For the X-ray, youll swallow a chalky fluid called barium, which will coat your esophagus, stomach and duodenum. The barium helps your digestive organs show up better in black and white images.
- CT scan. Your healthcare provider might recommend a CT scan if they need to see your organs in more detail. A CT scan can show complications such as a perforation in the stomach or intestinal wall. For the test, youll lie on a table inside a scanner machine while X-rays are taken. You may drink or have an injection with contrast fluid to make your organs show up better in images.
Tests for H. pylori. Your healthcare provider might want to test you separately for H. pylori infection. Tests may include:
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Ulcerative Colitis Vs Crohns Disease Vs Irritable Bowel
Other gut diseases can have some of the same symptoms.
- Ulcerative colitis affects only your large intestine and its lining.
- Crohnâs disease causes inflammation, but it affects other places in your digestive tract.
- Irritable bowel syndrome has some of the same symptoms as UC, but it doesnât cause inflammation or ulcers. Instead, itâs a problem with the muscles in your intestines.
Peptic Ulcers: Is Stress A Culprit
Contrary to popular belief, most ulcers do not actually result from stress or eating too many spicy foods.
In 2005, Drs. Barry Marshal and Robin Warren, from Australia, received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering that a spiral-shaped bacterium that can colonize the human stomach is the offending cause in many cases.
Smoking tobacco, and drinking alcohol, may worsen ulcers, and as little as one baby aspirin daily can cause an ulcer.
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How Can I Prevent Ulcers
You may be able to prevent ulcers from forming if you:
- Talk to your doctor about alternatives to NSAID medications to relieve pain.
- Discuss protective measures with your doctor, if you cant stop taking an NSAID.
- Opt for the lowest effective dose of NSAID and take it with a meal.
- Quit smoking.
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How Do Nsaids Cause A Peptic Ulcer
To understand how NSAIDs cause peptic ulcer disease, it is important to understand how NSAIDs work. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs reduce pain, fever, and inflammation, or swelling.
Everyone has two enzymes that produce chemicals in your bodys cells that promote pain, inflammation, and fever. NSAIDs work by blocking or reducing the amount of these enzymes that your body makes. However, one of the enzymes also produces another type of chemical that protects the stomach lining from stomach acid and helps control bleeding. When NSAIDs block or reduce the amount of this enzyme in your body, they also increase your chance of developing a peptic ulcer.
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Causes Of Duodenal Ulcers
Your stomach makes a strong acid that kills germs and helps you digest food. To protect themselves against this acid, cells of the stomach and duodenum make a barrier from mucus. If this barrier is damaged, an ulcer can form.
The main cause of this damage is infection with bacteria called Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori. The bacteria can cause the lining of your duodenum to become inflamed and an ulcer can form.
Some medications can also cause a duodenal ulcer, particularly anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and aspirin. Rarely, other medicines or medical conditions might cause an ulcer.
It’s possible that you are more likely to get a duodenal ulcer if you smoke, drink a lot of alcohol or you are stressed, but these things are less important than infection with H. pylori.
What Are The Possible Complications Of Peptic Ulcer Disease
An ulcer left untreated may cause serious complications, including:
- Internal bleeding: While most people with ulcers wont have bleeding, this is the most common complication that can occur. A slow bleeding ulcer can cause anemia or even severe blood loss.
- Perforation: An ulcer that is continuously eroded by acid can eventually become a hole in the stomach or intestinal wall. This is intensely painful and also dangerous. It allows bacteria from the digestive tract to enter the abdominal cavity, which can lead to an infection of the abdominal cavity called peritonitis. From there, the infection is at risk of spreading to the rest of the body . This can lead to a life-threatening condition called .
- Obstruction: An ulcer in the pyloric channel, the narrow passageway that leads from the stomach into the duodenum, can become an obstruction that blocks the flow of food into the small intestine. This can happen after the ulcer has healed. Ulcers that have gone through a healing process may build up scar tissue that enlarges them. An ulcer that is big enough to obstruct the small intestine can stall the digestive process, with numerous side effects.
- Stomach cancer: Some gastric ulcers can become malignant over time. This is more likely when your ulcer is caused by H. pylori infection. H. pylori is a contributing cause of gastric cancer, though fortunately this is uncommon.
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Nsaid Drugs And Stomach Ulcers
A group of painkillers known as NSAIDs carries a risk of stomach ulcers. The two best-known NSAIDs are aspirin and ibuprofen.
The risk of ulcers increases if the drugs are taken in high doses, or regularly for a long time.
Stronger NSAIDs, such as those that need a prescription, are riskier for stomach ulcers than those that can be bought over-the-counter .
People should always check labels and talk to a pharmacist or a doctor about any concerns with using painkillers. They may recommend an alternative such as acetaminophen.
How Can I Be Sure Its An Ulcer
The only way to be sure an ulcer is causing your discomfort is with a medical diagnosis. We will evaluate your medical history and conduct a thorough physical examination.
To determine the root cause of your ulcer, we may run blood, stool, or breath tests. These tests are designed to look for signs of helicobacter pylori, the bacteria linked to ulcers.
Depending on your unique symptoms, we may also order an endoscopy. During an endoscopy, we insert a tube with a tiny camera down your throat and into your stomach to take pictures of any potential damage and collect tissue samples for analysis.
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Should You Try Probiotics For Crohn’s
People with Crohn’s and other forms of irritable bowel disease lack some of the gut microbes found in other people. Some of these microbes include anti-inflammatory bacteria. Probiotics are thought to improve gut health by providing living microorganisms that can help repopulate your insides in health-promoting ways. As with any treatment, it is important to discuss probiotics with your doctor before attempting to increase them in your diet. Some probiotics sources include:
- Probiotic supplements
What Should I Do If I Think I Have A Stomach Ulcer
Always seek medical care for a stomach ulcer. While you may be able to manage symptoms temporarily with over-the-counter medications, these wont heal the ulcer. You need to identify and treat the underlying cause. An untreated ulcer can lead to serious complications, even if your symptoms are mild. The major cause of stomach ulcers, H. pylori infection, can also lead to other complications.
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What To Do During A Flare
Most skin issues associated with UC are best treated by managing the UC as much as possible, as many of these rashes can coincide with UC flare-ups. Others may be the first sign of UC in someone who hasnt been diagnosed yet.
Corticosteroids can help with the inflammation that often causes the skin issues associated with UC. Eating a well-balanced diet can help promote overall health and may aid in preventing skin issues.
When you do experience a flare-up of UC skin rash, there are several things you can try:
- Keep the lesion clean to prevent infections.
- See your doctor for prescription antibiotic ointment or pain medication if needed.
Signs You May Have An Ulcer
Did you know that stomach ulcers also called peptic ulcers affect at least 1 in 10 Americans over the course of their lives? And while stomach ulcers can be treated easily when caught early, lack of medical care can lead to serious complications.
Understanding the signs of stomach ulcers is important in helping you get the treatment you need. At Prima Medicine in Fairfax and South Riding, Virginia, our care team has the experience and knowledge to diagnose and treat stomach ulcers. Weve curated this guide to help you recognize the warning signs of an ulcer and understand what you can do about it.
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How Soon After Treatment Will I Feel Better
If you take all medicines as prescribed and avoid irritating the ulcer with NSAIDs, alcohol or smoking, your ulcer should heal well within a few weeks. Surgical cases may take a few weeks more. Your healthcare provider will follow up with you at the end of your course of medication to make sure the ulcer has healed and any infection has cleared. They will probably take follow-up tests, including an upper endoscopy to look at the site of the ulcer and tests for H. pylori, if you had it, to make sure the infection is gone.
What Is Large Intestine Pain
Pain in the large intestine is pain that you feel anywhere between your chest and groin. This is often referred to as the abdomen, stomach region or belly. Acute abdominal pain has many potential underlying causes, ranging from benign, self-limited conditions to life-threatening surgical emergencies. The myriad causes of abdominal pain is broad, encompassing gastrointestinal, gynecologic, urologic, vascular, and musculoskeletal conditions. Although the patient history, physical examination, and laboratory test results can narrow the differential diagnosis, imaging is often required for definitive diagnosis and treatment.
The type, quality, onset, duration and location of abdominal pain are often a helpful starting point in differentiating the many potential underlying causes of abdominal pain.
To help physicians make the most appropriate diagnostic decisions for specific clinical conditions, below are a list of questions that can assist them to narrow down the potential causes of your abdominal pain.
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Youre More Bloated Than Usual
If you notice your stomach feeling particularly bloated, it may be more serious than a little bit of gasit could be one of the signs of an ulcer. According to RM Healthy, bloating is often one of the earliest ulcer symptoms, with patients especially complaining of pain in their midsection. Of course, bloating can also be caused simply by eating something your body doesnt agree with or not drinking enough water, but when combined with these other symptoms, its worth checking out.
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