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 Foods Soothe A Peptic Ulcer
High-fiber foods and those high in vitamin A may help soothe a persons stomach. Some examples include oats, barley, apples, and sweet potatoes.
- Levenstein, S., et al. . Psychological stress increases risk for peptic ulcer, regardless of Helicobacter pylori infection or use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs .
How Stomach Ulcers Are Treated
Treatment will depend on what caused the ulcer.
Most people will be prescribed a medication called a proton pump inhibitor to reduce the amount of acid in their stomach.
Youll also need antibiotics if your ulcers were caused by a H. pylori infection.
Stomach ulcers can come back after treatment, although this is less likely to happen if the underlying cause is addressed.
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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.
Causes Of Stomach Ulcers
Stomach ulcers happen when theres damage to the layer that protects the stomach lining from the acids in your stomach.
This is usually a result of:
- an infection with Helicobacter pylori bacteria
- taking anti-inflammatory medicines , such as ibuprofen or aspirin particularly if they’re taken for a long time or at high doses
It used to be thought that stress or certain foods might cause stomach ulcers, but there’s little evidence to suggest this is the case.
Stomach ulcers can affect anyone but are more common in people aged 60 or over. Men are more affected than women.
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How Is An Ulcer Diagnosed
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms. They may do an endoscopy. This procedure involves inserting a thin, flexible tube attached to a camera down your throat and into your stomach. Your doctor will test your blood, breath or stool for H. pylori. They also can test a sample of your stomach lining. Your doctor also will ask you if you regularly take aspirin or anti-inflammatory medicines.
Common Symptoms Of Peptic Ulcer And When To Seek Medical Help
The very mention of the word ulcer is likely to cause an internal, evidently physical discomfort. Thats exactly what peptic ulcers do. They cause a difficult-to-ignore burning pain in your stomach, sometimes in the dead of night, capable of stirring you awake. Misjudging this pain to be a simple case of indigestion may be your natural reaction. However, if this has been happening frequently, do not carelessly dismiss it because pain is your bodys way of signaling you to take care of yourself.
To make some sense and understand where the malfunction lies, we first need to understand what peptic ulcers are.
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Is There A Peptic Ulcer Diet Plan
No particular diet is helpful for people with peptic ulcers. At one time, a bland diet and avoidance of spicy or greasy foods was recommended. Milk and dairy food have been used in the past for ulcer symptoms, but have not been proven to be effective. We now know diet has little effect on ulcers. In some people, however, certain foods seem to aggravate stomach ulcer symptoms. Keep a food diary with your intake and the resulting symptoms and avoid eating any foods that aggravate symptoms.
What Causes A Peptic Ulcer
Causes of peptic ulcers include
- long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , such as aspirin and ibuprofen
- an infection with the bacteria Helicobacter pylori
- rare cancerous and noncancerous tumors in the stomach, duodenum, or pancreasknown as Zollinger-Ellison syndrome
Sometimes peptic ulcers are caused by both NSAIDs and H. pylori.
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How Do Nonsteroidal Anti
NSAIDS are a type of medication used often for headaches, period pains, and other pains. They can also help reduce fever and inflammation. Examples include aspirin and ibuprofen. Many NSAIDs are available without a prescription.
They lower the stomachs ability to make a protective layer of mucus. This it more susceptible to damage by stomach acid. NSAIDs can also affect the flow of blood to the stomach, reducing the bodys ability to repair cells.
Symptoms Of Peptic Ulcer Complications
Peptic ulcers can cause some discomfort but are rarely life-threatening. With that said, severe ulcers can sometimes lead to perforation and internal bleeding and require emergency surgery to prevent serious illness or death.
This article discusses the complications of peptic ulcers, warning signs, and when to get medical help.
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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 Questions Should I Ask My Doctor
If you have stomach ulcers, you may want to ask your doctor:
- What pain reliever can I use instead of an NSAID?
- How will I know if the H. pylori infection is gone?
- How do we find out if the ulcer has healed?
- What can I do relieve symptoms at home during treatment?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Contrary to commonly held beliefs, ulcers arent caused by stress or foods you eat. Most of time, bacteria causes them. Doctors can treat the bacteria with antibiotics and other medications.
If youve been popping a lot of antacids lately, youre constantly snacking to get rid of a gnawing pain in your stomach or you have any other signs of an ulcer, the best thing you can do for your health is talk to your provider. Treatment can heal an ulcer in a matter of weeks.
Can You Prevent A Peptic Ulcer
While stress and spicy foods can make symptoms of a peptic ulcer worse, they donât seem to make you more likely to have one. But a few other things can raise your chances.
Be careful when you take pain relievers. Some people who have arthritis or other conditions that cause chronic pain take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for weeks or months at a time to ease pain and swelling. These medicines can affect the mucus that protects your stomach against acid and make you more likely to have peptic ulcers.
These pain relievers include:
You’re more likely to get an ulcer while taking one of these if you:
- Are over age 65
- Are infected with H. pylori bacteria
- Take more than one NSAID at a time
- Have had a peptic ulcer in the past
- Also take a steroid drug or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor
To lower your chances for peptic ulcers while you take NSAIDs:
- Use the lowest possible dose to control your symptoms, and stop taking them as soon as you no longer need them.
- Take your medicine with food.
- Don’t drink alcohol while youâre taking these medicines.
While you’re on NSAIDs, you can take medicine to lower the amount of acid your stomach makes. Drugs that can do that include:
- Dairy products that have live cultures, like yogurt, kefir, and aged cheeses
Duodenal Ulcer Symptoms In Women What Else
Besidesupper abdominal pain, the open sore may also cause the following signs andsymptoms:
Less often, the open sore might also cause more serious signs and symptoms such as anemia, appetite loss, weight loss without trying, feeling faint, breathing problem, vomiting blood, and passing tarry-dark stools . Some of these may signal ulcer complications such as internal bleeding.
This article is for general information only. For any abnormal signs and symptoms that persist or get worse seek immediate medical help without delay! Discuss more with healthcare professionals in your local area for more guidance.
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What Are Peptic Ulcers And What Causes Them
Peptic ulcers are sores in the inner lining of the stomach or upper small intestine. They form when the digestive juices produced by the stomach erode or eat away the lining of the digestive tract. Peptic ulcers may form in the lining of the stomach or just below the stomach, at the start of the small intestine .
The most common causes of peptic ulcers are infection with Helicobacter pylori bacteria and frequent use of aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs .
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Nausea and vomiting are also due to the inflammatory cascade that occurs as a result of the ulcers development, says Modi. The inflammation of the stomach lining itself causes intermittent contractions and if the muscles of the abdominal wall contract with enough force, it can cause full-on vomiting, says Rudolph Bedford, M.D., gastroenterologist at Providence Saint Johns Health Center in Santa Monica, California.
In some cases, these symptoms strike because the ulcer is causing a blockage in the stomach and food isnt able to pass easily into the small intestine. Your doctor can determine the exact cause of the ulcer and, most likely, treat it with antacid medicationsbut, if theres evidence of a blockage, youll be admitted to the hospital for further treatment, says Modi.
Find out what you MUST do the next time you go to the doctor:
Ulcers can bleed and cause vomitingparticularly, vomiting of blood or material that looks like coffee grounds , says Sophie Balzora, M.D., gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center. Your poop may also become black in color, which, again, can be indicative of digested blood. Both are signs that require urgent and emergent medical attention, she says.
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Nsaids And Stomach Ulcers
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.
Endoscopy For Diagnosing Or Treating Bleeding Ulcers
Endoscopy is important for both diagnosing and treating bleeding ulcers.
Endoscopy for Diagnosing Bleeding Ulcers and Determining Risk of Rebleeding
With endoscopy, doctors are able to detect the signs of bleeding, such as active spurting or oozing of blood from arteries. Endoscopy can also detect specific features in the ulcers, referred to as stigmata, which indicate a higher or lower risk of rebleeding.
Endoscopy as Treatment
Endoscopy is usually used to treat bleeding from visible vessels that are less than 2 mm in diameter. This approach also appears to be very effective at preventing rebleeding in patients whose ulcers are not bleeding, but who have high-risk features . Endoscopic treatment includes epinephrine injection, thermocoagulation, application of clips and banding procedures.
The following is a typical endoscopic treatment procedure:
Endoscopy is effective at controlling bleeding in most people who are good candidates for the procedure. Rebleeding occurs in about 10% to 20% of patients. If rebleeding occurs, a repeat endoscopy is effective in about 75% of patients. Those who fail to respond will need to have an angiogram with embolization or major abdominal surgery. The most serious complication from endoscopy is perforation of the stomach or intestinal wall.
Other Medical Considerations
Certain medications may be needed after endoscopy:
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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.
What Natural Home Remedies Help Peptic Ulcer Pain
Home care for peptic ulcers often centers on neutralizing the stomach acid.
- Don’t smoke, and avoid coffee and alcohol. These habits increase gastric acid production and weaken the mucosal barrier of the GI tract promoting ulcer formation and slowing ulcer healing.
- Don’t take aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Acetaminophen is a good substitute for some conditions. If acetaminophen doesn’t help, talk to your health-care professional about alternatives.
- If your symptoms are mild, try an over-the-counter antacid or nonprescription histamine blocker to neutralize stomach acid. Usually stronger prescription medications are needed.
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Antacids And H2 Blockers
Antacids neutralize existing acid in the stomach. Antacids such as Maalox, Mylanta, and Amphojel are safe and effective treatments. However, the neutralizing action of these agents is short-lived, and frequent dosing is required. Magnesium containing antacids, such as Maalox and Mylanta, can cause diarrhea, while aluminum containing agents like Amphojel can cause constipation. Ulcers frequently return when antacids are discontinued.
Studies have shown that a protein released in the stomach called histamine stimulates gastric acid secretion. Histamine antagonists are drugs designed to block the action of histamine on gastric cells and reduce the production of acid. Examples of H2 blockers are cimetidine , nizatidine , and famotidine . While H2 blockers are effective in ulcer healing, they have a limited role in eradicating H. pylori without antibiotics. Therefore, ulcers frequently return when H2 blockers are stopped.
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Treatment For A Stomach Ulcer
Special diets are now known to have very little impact on the prevention or treatment of stomach ulcers. Treatment options can include:
- medication including antibiotics, to destroy the H. pylori colony, and drugs to help speed the healing process. Different drugs need to be used in combination some of the side effects can include diarrhoea and rashes. Resistance to some of these antibiotics is becoming more common
- subsequent breath tests used to make sure the H. pylori infection has been treated successfully
- changes to existing medication the doses of arthritis medication, aspirin or other anti-inflammatory medication can be altered slightly to reduce their contributing effects on the stomach ulcer.
- reducing acid tablets are available to reduce the acid content in the gastric juices
- lifestyle modifications including quitting cigarettes, since smoking reduces the natural defences in the stomach and impairs the healing process.
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Other Possible Causes Of Abdominal Pain In Women
Abdominalsymptoms are probably more common in women,according to MSD manual. There are several answers onthis, one of the main ones could be hormonal fluctuations .
In olderwomen, for example, menopause may cause abdominal discomforts more likely especiallyin those with endometriosis, IBS , and inflammatorybowel disease.
It seemsthere are a wide range of conditions to blame for female abdominal discomforts.Besides stomach and duodenal ulcers, the following common health conditions mayalso cause abdominal symptoms in women:
Duodenal Ulcer Vs Menstrual Cramps
Whileabdominal pain could signal serious medical condition, often it has to do witha regular thing such as menstrual cramps in women of childbearing age.
Painassociated with menstrual cramps is usually felt in the lower abdomen, not inthe upper abdomen. What you eat also wouldnt have an effect on the pain!Sometimes the pain may radiate to inner thighs, hips, or lower back.
Othersymptoms may include loose stools, upset stomach, and feeling of excessivepressure in the belly .
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