How Are Peptic Ulcers Diagnosed
To look for peptic ulcers, doctors may:
- Order an upper gastrointestinal series. These X-rays of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum let the doctor get a close look at the gastrointestinal tract. A person drinks a liquid called barium while getting the X-ray. If theres an ulcer, it should be outlined on the X-ray.
- Do an upper endoscopy . The patient is sedated for this procedure. Then, the doctor puts an a small, flexible tube with a tiny camera on the end down the throat and into the stomach and duodenum. The doctors can see the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum to check for possible ulcers, inflammation, or food allergies. The doctor also can do tissue tests to check for H. pyloriIf thereâs any sign of inflammation, the doctor will test for H. pylori. This test is important because treatment for ulcers caused by H. pylori differs from treatment for those caused by NSAIDs.
To look for H. pylori, doctors can do:
- tissue tests during an endoscopy
- stool tests to look for H. pylori antigens. Testing stool is becoming more common, as some doctors think theyâre more accurate than blood tests.
- breath tests, which can find carbon broken down by H. pylori after the patient drinks a solution. Breath tests are mostly done in adults.
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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.
How Are Ulcers Diagnosed
Your healthcare provider may be able to make the diagnosis just by talking with you about your symptoms. If you develop an ulcer and youre not taking NSAIDs, the cause is likely an H. pylori infection. To confirm the diagnosis, youll need one of these tests:
If you have severe symptoms, your provider may recommend an upper endoscopy to determine if you have an ulcer. In this procedure, the doctor inserts an endoscope through your throat and into your stomach to look for abnormalities.
H. Pylori tests
Tests for H. pylori are now widely used and your provider will tailor treatment to reduce your symptoms and kill the bacteria. A breath test is the easiest way to discover H. pylori. Your provider can also look for it with a blood or stool test, or by taking a sample during an upper endoscopy.
Less frequently, imaging tests such as X-rays and CT scans are used to detect ulcers. You have to drink a specific liquid that coats the digestive tract and makes ulcers more visible to the imaging machines.
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When To Seek Medical Advice
You should visit your GP if you think you may have a stomach ulcer.
Seek urgent medical advice if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- vomiting blood the blood can appear bright red or have a dark brown, grainy appearance, similar to coffee grounds
- passing dark, sticky, tar-like stools
- a sudden, sharp pain in your tummy that gets steadily worse
These could be a sign of a serious complication, such as internal bleeding.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Peptic Ulcer
YouÃ¢ll most likely feel a burning pain or discomfort between your belly button and breastbone. You might especially notice it on an empty stomach â such as between meals or at night. The pain may stop for a little while if you eat or take an antacid, but then return. The pain can last for a few minutes or a few hours, and may come and go for many days or weeks.
Other symptoms may include:
Small ulcers may not cause any symptoms. But if you notice any of these signs, talk to your doctor.
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Other Symptoms Include:
- Pain may be relieved by eating, drinking, or taking antacids
Some stomach ulcers go unnoticed and show no typical indigestion-type pains. These ulcers are less common and tend to be diagnosed after the ulcer has started bleeding. Some ulcers can cause a hole in the stomach wall. This is known as perforation and is a serious condition.
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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 Is A Peptic Ulcer Treated
Some peptic ulcers heal on their own. But if you donÃ¢t treat them, the ulcers tend to come back.
They can erode the blood vessel wall in your stomach or small intestine. The ulcers also can eat a hole through the lining and get infected. Or they can cause swelling, which may block food from moving from your stomach into your small intestine.
If H. pylori is the culprit, your doctor may prescribe a mix of antibiotics to kill it. If aspirin and other NSAIDs are behind the ulcer, you may need to cut down on them, stop taking them altogether, or switch to another pain reliever.
Your doctor may also give you antacids to fight stomach acid, or prescribe medicine to lessen the acid your body makes. Prescription drugs called cytoprotective agents can help protect the lining of the stomach or small intestine so the ulcer can heal.
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Signs You May Have A Stomach Ulcer
We have absolutely warned our patients about the dangers of untreated ulcers in the past. However, we consider this to be an extremely important matter and therefore, we will continue to try to educate the people of Los Angeles, as well as those elsewhere on the most common symptoms of stomach ulcers. If you know the signs, you can see your doctor sooner rather than later when things have gotten especially bad. Continue reading below to get familiar with what these symptoms are.
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How Will My Doctor Treat My Stomach Ulcer
Most stomach ulcers take 1-2 months to heal and your doctor/gastroenterologist will prescribe you the treatment based on the cause of your ulcer.
- Your doctor will assess your family history, dietary history, diseases, and medication history and examine your tummy to address the cause of your stomach ulcer.
- Your doctor will discuss with you the side effects of the painkillers and analgesics, which you may be taking, and whether you should keep using them or stop them.
- Your doctor may advise you to stop smoking, stop alcohol consumption, lose some weight, and avoid some trigger foods, such as spicy and fatty food.
- Your doctor may prescribe an alternative painkiller, analgesic, or anti-inflammatory medications, such as Paracetamol.
- Your doctor will prescribe you proton pump inhibitors and antacids to reduce the amount of acid production and some antibiotics for up to 2 weeks to treat H pylori infection.
- Your doctor will prescribe probiotics, which will help to grow good bacteria in your gut and may be useful in killing H pylori bacteria.
- Your doctor may prescribe you bismuth supplements.
- Your doctor may have another endoscopy to check stomach ulcers several weeks after treatment to make sure that the ulcer is gone because a very small number of stomach ulcers might contain cancer.
If the underlying cause is not addressed properly, the stomach ulcer may recur even after the treatment.
Other Causes And Factors
Other causes are rare. For example, some viral infections can cause a stomach ulcer. Crohns 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.
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Burning Pain In Your Abdomen
This may seem like a no-brainer but the most common sign that people experience when they have a stomach ulcer is a persistent burning pain in their abdomen. This sensation occurs when juices in the stomach used for digestion come into contact with the open sore. For the most part, the pain is felt from the breastbone to navel and is often worse at night than during the day. On the other hand, if you are someone who frequently skips meals, you may find that you experience this pain much throughout the daytime.
Burning Pain In The Abdomen
Persistent burning pain in the abdomen is one of the first signs of a stomach ulcer. The sensation of pain occurs when juices in the stomach, which help in digestion, come into contact with an open sore in the stomach lining.
In most cases, the pain is felt from the breast bone to the navel, and it often worsens during the night. If you skip meals, particularly breakfast, you may also experience this burning sensation in the stomach during the daytime.
If the dull and burning ache of the ulcer often turns into a sharp, stabbing pain, it is a sign that your ulcer is acting up and you need medical help. It could mean that the ulcer has caused a more critical problem like a perforation in the wall of your stomach or intestine, or a blockage in your digestive tract, and it is triggering intense pain.
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Nsaids And Stomach Ulcers
NSAIDs carry a risk of stomach ulcers. The two most popular 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 available on prescription, carry a greater risk of stomach ulcers than those that people can buy over the counter.
A person should always check labels and consult a pharmacist or a doctor about any concerns regarding using pain relief medication. They may recommend an alternative, such as acetaminophen.
Your Appetite Went Mia
For many patients with ulcers, the condition can actually result in a loss of appetite. This drop in food intake, combined with occasional vomiting, may lead to unexpected weight loss. Some ulcer patients report eating their normal amount of food, yet still lose weight, so the ulcer itself may cause a drop on the scale, too.
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The Dangers Of Stomach Ulcers
While ulcers dont necessarily cause more than discomfort initially, if left untreated, they can lead to some serious medical complications. These can include:
- Internal bleeding and serious blood loss which can require hospitalization and blood transfusions
- Peritonitis, or infection of the abdominal cavity
- Obstructed digestion
- Trouble breathing
At the first sign or symptom of ulcers, its important to get a medical evaluation and to treat them appropriately to prevent a worsening or severe condition.
Ulcers can be easy to treat and manage, even naturally, once they are diagnosed.
Traditional treatment for stomach ulcers involves removing sources of aggravation, like:
- Switching away from NSAID or steroid drugs which could be worsening the condition
- Quitting cigarettes
- Eliminating alcohol consumption
- Taking acid blocking drugs to reduce and manage stomach acid
When an ulcer is caused by H. pylori, its important to live a lifestyle that reduces aggravation and the causes, because ulcers can easily return if the bacteria continues to live in the digestive tract.
Sometimes conventional medical treatment will require surgery to address ulcer complications, especially if theyve begun to bleed internally. Surgical intervention typically involves the removal of the ulcer, tying off bleeding vessels, grafting tissue from another site to repair the ulcer, or reducing the stomachs ability to produce acid.
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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
- 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.
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When To See A Doctor
Anyone who thinks they may have an ulcer in their stomach should consult their doctor. Any stomach symptoms that last for more than a few days or keep happening need evaluation and treatment.
A slow-bleeding ulcer can be signaled by symptoms of anemia, such as being tired and breathless. More serious bleeding is an urgent medical problem and can be signaled if blood is vomited up, or stools are black and sticky.
Perforation, or a hole in the stomach, is also an emergency. Without quick treatment, the wall of the stomach can become infected. Sudden stomach pain that gets worse can indicate perforation, and any signs of being very unwell with infection need treatment as soon as possible.
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. pyloriinfection 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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Causes Of Stomach Ulcers
A stomach ulcer can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
- Helicobacter pylori bacteria is thought to be responsible for around 60 per cent of stomach ulcers and at least 90 per cent of duodenal ulcers.
- Certain medications which include aspirin or clopidogrel, taken regularly to help prevent heart attack or stroke, and drugs for arthritis. Anti-inflammatory medications are thought to cause around two fifths of stomach ulcers.
- Cancer stomach cancer can present as an ulcer, particularly in older people.
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