Other Causes And Factors
Other causes are rare. For example, some viral infections can cause a stomach ulcer. Crohn’s disease may cause a stomach ulcer in addition to other problems of the gut.
Stomach cancer may at first look similar to an ulcer. Stomach cancer is uncommon but may need to be ‘ruled out’ if you are found to have a stomach ulcer.
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.
How Can I Tell If I Have A Stomach Ulcer
Do you often have a dull or burning pain in your stomach that lasts anywhere from a few minutes to several hours? Does the pain seem to flare up when your stomach is empty? Have you been taking Advil, Aleve or aspirin for a long time? If your answer to these questions is yes, you might have a peptic ulcer.
At Westchester Health, we have a number of patients who come to us wanting to know if the pain theyre feeling might be an ulcer, and if so, is there is anything they can do to relieve that pain. To help them, and anyone else whos experiencing this kind of discomfort, understand stomach ulcers, what causes them and what can be done to reverse the condition, we offer this informational blog.
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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.
How Do You Know If Your Ulcer Is Healed
A pepticulcer can develop on the stomach lining orfirst part of the intestine . A number of treatmentoptions are available to soothe and heal the open sore, and this is usually dependenton the underlying cause. Fortunately, the disease is curable in most cases . The next question, how do youknow if it is healed completely?
What Causes Peptic Ulcers
Ulcers form when digestive juices damage the walls of the stomach or small intestine. If the mucus layer gets too thin or your stomach makes too much acid, your gut will feel it. The two major causes are:
- Bacteria. Itâs called Helicobacter pylori , and as many as half of us carry it. Most people infected with H. pylori do not get ulcers. But in others, it can raise the amount of acid, break down the protective mucus layer, and irritate the digestive tract. Experts arenât sure how H. pylori infection spreads. They think it may pass from person to person through close contact, like kissing. You may also get it from unclean food and water.
- Certain pain relievers. If youâve been taking aspirin often and for a long time, youâre more likely to get a peptic ulcer. The same is true for other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs . They include ibuprofen and naproxen. NSAIDs block your body from making a chemical that helps protect the inner walls of your stomach and small intestine from stomach acid. Other types of pain meds, such as acetaminophen, wonât lead to peptic ulcers.
- Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol also can make you more likely to get ulcers. Stress and eating a lot of spicy food donât cause ulcers, as experts once thought. But they can make ulcers worse and harder to treat.
Symptoms Of Stomach Ulcers
A number of symptoms are associated with stomach ulcers. The severity of the symptoms depends on the severity of the ulcer.
The most common symptom is a burning sensation or pain in the middle of your abdomen between your chest and belly button. Typically, the pain will be more intense when your stomach is empty, and it can last for a few minutes to several hours.
Other common signs and symptoms of ulcers include:
- dull pain in the stomach
- weight loss
- heartburn, which is a burning sensation in the chest)
- pain that may improve when you eat, drink, or take antacids
- anemia, whose symptoms can include tiredness, shortness of breath, or paler skin
- dark, tarry stools
- vomit thats bloody or looks like coffee grounds
Talk to your doctor if you have any symptoms of a stomach ulcer. Even though discomfort may be mild, ulcers can worsen if they arent treated. Bleeding ulcers can become life-threatening.
Types Of Vascular Ulcers
The two major types of vascular ulcers are venous ulcers and arterial ulcers. Both types of these ulcers can originate from wounds or sustained pressure.
When Should I See A Doctor If I Think I Have A Peptic Ulcer
- If you have burning pain in your upper stomach that is relieved by eating or taking antacids, call a health-care professional for an appointment. Don’t assume you have an ulcer. Certain other conditions can cause similar symptoms.
- If you vomit blood or have other signs of gastrointestinal bleeding, go to an emergency department right away. Peptic ulcers can cause massive bleeding, which requires blood transfusion or surgery.
- Severe abdominal pain suggests perforation or tearing of an ulcer. This is an emergency that may require surgery to fix a hole in your stomach.
- Vomiting and abdominal pain also can be a sign of an obstruction, another complication of peptic ulcers. This also may require emergency surgery.
If Your Ulcer Was Caused By An Anti
If possible, you should stop taking the anti-inflammatory medicine. This allows the ulcer to heal. You will also normally be prescribed an acid-suppressing medicine for several weeks. This stops the stomach from making acid and allows the ulcer to heal. However, in many cases, the anti-inflammatory medicine is needed to ease symptoms of arthritis or other painful conditions, or aspirin is needed to protect against blood clots. In these situations, one option is to take an acid-suppressing medicine each day indefinitely. This reduces the amount of acid made by the stomach and greatly reduces the chance of an ulcer forming again.
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.
- Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.
How To Recognize Gerd
GERD is a plumbing problem. It starts at the bottom of the esophagus, the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach.
When the valve at the bottom of your esophagus doesnt close properly, acid backs up and causes a painful burning sensation in your chest and throat. When youve got GERD, acid is coming back up and bathing your esophagus, instead of staying in the stomach where its supposed to be, says Dr. Brocato. That gives you a sensation of food coming up and irritation in your throat.
GERD is very common. According to the National Institutes of Health, it affects about 20% of Americans.
What Are The Symptoms Of Any Complications
Stomach ulcers can cause various complications but these are much less common now because of more effective treatments. However, complications can be very serious and include:
Bleeding from the ulcer
- This can range from a ‘trickle’ to a life-threatening bleed.
- If there is sudden heavy bleeding then this will cause you to vomit blood and make you feel very faint.
- Less sudden bleeding may cause you to vomit and the vomit looks coffee-coloured because the stomach acid has partly broken down the blood.
- A more gradual trickle of blood will pass through your gut and cause your stools to look very dark in colour or even black .
PerforationThis is the term used to describe the ulcer having gone all the way through the wall of the stomach. Food and acid in the stomach then leak out of the stomach. This usually causes severe pain and makes you very unwell. Stomach perforation is a medical emergency and needs hospital treatment as soon as possible.
Stomach blockageThis is now rare. An ulcer at the end of the stomach can cause the outlet of the stomach to narrow and cause an obstruction. This can cause frequent severe vomiting.
How Is A Peptic Ulcer Diagnosed
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, whether you take NSAIDs and other drugs, and medical history. Theyâll also check you for bloating in the belly and pain. That may be enough to make a diagnosis.
The only way your doctor can tell for sure if you have an ulcer is to look. They may use a series of X-rays or a test called an endoscopy. This test allows them to pass a thin, bendy tube down your throat and into your stomach and small intestine. The tube has a camera at the end so they can check the lining for ulcers. They may also take a small piece of the lining to test for H. pylori. Blood, breath, and stool sample tests also can screen for the bacteria.
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.
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.
Could I Have An Ulcer And Not Know It
5 min Read Time
Around 25 million people will have a stomach ulcer in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite their prevalence, the symptoms of an ulcer can frequently be mistaken for other conditions, like heartburnand some people may not show any signs at all. Its also unlikely that stress or your diet is the culprit. If youre concerned that your stomach pain could be something more serious, read on to find out the causes, proper treatment and prevention methods for peptic ulcers.
What Kind Of Doctor Treats Peptic Ulcers
- If you suspect you may have a peptic ulcer, you may first be diagnosed by your family practitioner or internist.
- Children or teenagers may see a pediatrician.
- For further treatment you will likely be referred to a gastroenterologist, a specialist in disorders of the digestive tract.
- If you have an emergency such as vomiting or severe abdominal pain you will be seen by an emergency medicine specialist in an emergency room.
- In the rare case where surgery is needed, you may see a general surgeon.
Who Is More Likely To Get Ulcers
One in 10 people develops an ulcer. Risk factors that make ulcers more likely include:
- Frequent use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , a group of common pain relievers that includes ibuprofen .
- A family history of ulcers.
- Illness such as liver, kidney or lung disease.
- Regularly drinking alcohol.
What Are Stomach Ulcers
There are two kinds of stomach ulcers: gastric ulcers and duodenal ulcers. Gastric ulcers are sores on the lining of your stomach. Duodenal ulcers are sores on the upper section of your small intestine.
Your body creates a protective layer of mucus to shield the linings of your stomach and small intestine from the harsh stomach acid required to break down food. When the mucus layer is worn away or doesnt function properly, the acid begins to damage the lining of the stomach or small intestine, creating an ulcer. Many people believe spicy foods or stress cause ulcers, but while these can exacerbate existing ulcers, they dont actually cause them.
Ulcers are usually caused by an infection from a common bacteria called helicobacter pylori or from the habitual use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin. Other factors, such as being older than age 50, smoking, genetics, steroid use, and frequent alcohol use, can increase your risk of developing an ulcer.
If Your Ulcer Was Caused By Helicobacter Pylori
Most stomach ulcers are caused by infection with H. pylori. Therefore, a main part of the treatment is to clear this infection. If this infection is not cleared, the ulcer is likely to return once you stop taking acid-suppressing medication. For more information, see the separate leaflet called Helicobacter Pylori.
Other Causes Of Peptic Ulcers
- Genetics: A significant number of individuals with peptic ulcers have close relatives with the same problem, suggesting that genetic factors may be involved.
- Smoking: People who regularly smoke tobacco are more likely to develop peptic ulcers when compared with non-smokers.
- Alcohol consumption: Regular heavy drinkers of alcohol have a higher risk of developing peptic ulcers.
- Corticosteroid use: People on large or chronic doses of corticosteroids are also at greater risk.
- Mental stress: This stress has not been linked to the development of new peptic ulcers, but symptoms appear to be more severe in people with ulcers who are experiencing ongoing mental stress.
A patientâs description of symptoms will normally cause a doctor to suspect a peptic ulcer.
Tests that can confirm a diagnosis include:
- a blood test to check for H. pylori, though a positive test does not always mean there is an active infection
- a breath test, using a radioactive carbon atom to detect H. pylori
- a stool antigen test to detect H. pylori in the feces
- an upper gastrointestinal X-ray to identify ulcers
An endoscopy may also be used. This involves a long, narrow tube with a camera attached to the end is threaded down the patientâs throat and into the stomach and duodenum. This is the best diagnostic test.
Symptoms Of A Duodenal Ulcer
If you have a duodenal ulcer, you might:
- have pain in the stomach or abdomen
- have indigestion
- feel very full and bloated after eating
- feel like you might vomit
- lose weight
Very occasionally, an ulcer can cause serious complications. Go to the emergency department if:
- you have a sharp pain in your stomach that doesn’t go away
- your vomit or stools look bloody or a black colour
If you are concerned about symptoms, you can use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on the next appropriate healthcare steps and when to seek medical attention.
Diagnosis Of A Duodenal Ulcer
To diagnose a duodenal ulcer, your doctor will talk to you and examine you. They will probably also run some tests, which could include:
- a gastroscopy , where a specialist uses a thin, flexible tube with a camera on the end to look inside your stomach and duodenum
- a blood test, stool sample, or breath test to find out if you have a H. pylori in your system
If you have a gastroscopy, the surgeon might take a sample of tissue to test for H. pylori.
What Causes Ulcers
People used to think that stress or certain foods could cause ulcers. But researchers havent found any evidence to support those theories. Instead, studies have revealed two main causes of ulcers:
- Pain-relieving NSAID medications.
H. pylori bacteria
H. pylori commonly infects the stomach. About 50% of the worlds population has an H. pylori infection, often without any symptoms. Researchers believe people can transmit H. pylori from person to person, especially during childhood.
The H. pylori bacteria stick to the layer of mucus in the digestive tract and cause inflammation , which can cause this protective lining to break down. This breakdown is a problem because your stomach contains strong acid intended to digest food. Without the mucus layer to protect it, the acid can eat into stomach tissue.
However, for most people the presence of H. pylori doesnt have a negative impact. Only 10% to 15% of people with H. pylori end up developing ulcers .
Another major cause of peptic ulcer disease is the use of NSAIDs, a group of medications used to relieve pain. NSAIDS can wear away at the mucus layer in the digestive tract. These medications have the potential to cause peptic ulcers to form:
- Aspirin .
- Naproxen .
- Ibuprofen .
- Prescription NSAIDs .
Acetaminophen is not an NSAID and wont cause damage to your stomach. People who cant take NSAIDs are often directed to take acetaminophen.