When To See A Healthcare Provider
Its important to get treatment for ulcers. The symptoms of an ulcer, including abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and weight loss, are all reasons to see a healthcare provider.
For those who have been diagnosed with a peptic ulcer, its important to see a healthcare provider if any new symptoms develoop or if symptoms get worse.
This can include:
What Are The Complications Of Peptic Ulcers
Ulcers can cause serious problems if you dont get treatment.
The most common problems include:
- Bleeding. As an ulcer wears away the muscles of the stomach or duodenal wall, blood vessels may be hurt. This causes bleeding.
- Hole . Sometimes an ulcer makes a hole in the wall of your stomach or duodenum. When this happens, bacteria and partly digested food can get in. This causes infection and redness or swelling .
- Narrowing and blockage . Ulcers that are found where the duodenum joins the stomach can cause swelling and scarring. This can narrow or even block the opening to the duodenum. Food cant leave your stomach and go into your small intestine. This causes vomiting. You cant eat properly.
How Common Are Stomach Ulcers
It’s not known exactly how common stomach ulcers are. They have become much less common since the 1980s because of much more effective treatments. So people with stomach ulcers now usually get better much more quickly.
The term ‘peptic ulcer’ is used to describe ulcers that are caused by too much acid in the stomach. This includes stomach ulcers and also ulcers in the first part of the gut known as the duodenum. Stomach ulcers are less common than duodenal ulcers.
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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.
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.
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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.
What Are The Complications Of Ulcers
- Bleeding This can range from a trickle to a life-threatening bleed
- Perforation This is the term used to describe the ulcer having gone all the way through the wall of the stomach. It may cause severe pain and makes a patient feel very unwell.
- Stomach blockage This is a rare occurrence. An ulcer at the end of the stomach can cause the part of the stomach that goes into the duodenum to narrow and cause an obstruction. This can cause frequent severe vomiting.
- Fistula This occurs whena perforated ulcer can establish a connection with an adjacent abdominal organ or structure. Exchange of material and fluids may happen between the adjacent structures resulting in vomiting these materials or hemorrhages.
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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.
Causes Of Gastric Ulcer
There are two situations that cause the appearance of gastric ulcer:
- Excess hydrochloric acid secreted by the stomach.
- The weakening of the mucous membranes that cover and protect its wall.
These two factors are due to different causes. The most common causative agent is Helicobacter pylori. Two thirds of the worlds population have this bacteria in their digestive system. It is not known how it is transmitted. However, there are indications that point to contaminated water and food as a possible source of infection.
Another cause of gastric ulcer is the continued and abusive use of anti-inflammatories. Among those drugs is ibuprofen. On the other hand, excessive consumption of alcohol and tobacco undoubtedly increases the risk of suffering from this disease.
Likewise, it should be clarified that factors such as stress and the consumption of spicy foods do not cause gastric ulcers. Only one caveat could be made: they could make it worse.
How Does H Pylori Cause Ulcers
Although many people naturally carry H. pylori, it is not clear why the bacteria only cause ulcers in some people. H. pylori spread through food and water. They live in the mucus that coats the lining of the stomach and duodenum, and they produce urease, an enzyme that neutralizes stomach acid by making it less acidic.
To compensate for this, the stomach produces more acid, and this irritates the stomach lining. The bacteria also weaken the defense system of the stomach and causes inflammation. Patients with peptic ulcers caused by H. pylori need treatment to get rid of the bacterium from the stomach, and to prevent them coming back.
Gastric Vs Duodenal Ulcer Symptoms
When the lining of the stomach or duodenum breaks down, it can lead to the formation of an ulcer. The stomach and duodenum have a mucosal lining that protects them, but it can get worn down.
When that happens, the acids and enzymes used in digestion can eat away at the wall of the stomach or intestine and cause an ulcer. This erosion of the lining and then the wall can result in an open sore.
There may be some differences in the symptoms of duodenal and gastric ulcers. Duodenal ulcers are likely to present with abdominal pain a few hours after meals, when the stomach is empty . The pain usually gets better after eating.
Gastric ulcers may cause pain soon after eating, nausea, vomiting, and weight loss.
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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:
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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What Causes Ger And Gerd
GERD may develop if your lower esophageal sphincter becomes weak or relaxes when it shouldnt. Factors that may affect the lower esophageal sphincter and lead to GERD include
How Are Ulcers Diagnosed
To diagnose a peptic ulcer, doctors do an exam, ask about symptoms, and take a medical history. If you have stomach pain or other symptoms of an ulcer, the doctor will do some tests.
One test is called an upper gastrointestinal series. These are X-rays of the stomach, duodenum, and esophagus, the muscular tube that links the mouth to the stomach. A person drinks a liquid called barium while getting an X-ray. If theres an ulcer, it should show up on the X-ray.
Another common test to look for an ulcer is an endoscopy . A person is sedated for this procedure. Then, the doctor puts an endoscope 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.
A doctor also can do a blood test that looks for H. pylori bacteria. This may be important if the upper GI series showed an ulcer. The blood test can be done right in the doctor’s office. Sometimes doctors test a poop sample or a person’s breath to check for the H. pylori bacteria.
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How To Recognize The Symptoms Of Stomach Ulcers
This article was medically reviewed by Roy Nattiv, MD. Dr. Roy Nattiv is a board-certified Pediatric Gastroenterologist in Los Angeles, California. who specializes in a broad range of pediatric gastrointestinal and nutritional illnesses such as constipation, diarrhea, reflux, food allergies, poor weight gain, SIBO, IBD, and IBS. Dr. Nattiv received his undergrad degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and his medical degree from the Sackler School of Medicine in Tel Aviv, Israel. He completed his pediatric residency at the Childrens Hospital at Montefiore, Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, and his fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco . While at UCSF, he was a California Institute of Regenerative Medicine fellowship trainee and was awarded the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition Fellow to Faculty Award in Pediatric IBD Research. In addition to his clinical work, Dr. Nattiv is active in the research community and has been published in several high-impact medical journals.There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article has 23 testimonials from our readers, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 3,729,912 times.
How Is Gastritis Diagnosed
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and history and perform a physical exam. Your provider may also order one or more of these tests:
- Breath test: During an H. pylori breath test, you swallow a capsule or liquid containing urea, a harmless radioactive material. You then exhale into a balloon-like bag. H. pylori bacteria change urea into carbon dioxide. If you have the bacteria, the breath test will show an increase in carbon dioxide.
- Blood test: A blood test checks for antibodies titers that fight H. pylori bacteria.
- Stool test: This test checks for H. pylori bacteria in your stool .
- Upper endoscopy: Your doctor uses an endoscope to see your stomach. The doctor inserts the scope through your esophagus, which connects your mouth to your stomach. An upper endoscopy procedure allows your provider to examine the stomach lining. You may also have a tissue sample taken from your stomach lining to test for infection.
- Upper gastrointestinal exam: During an upper GI exam, you swallow a chalky substance called barium. The liquid coats your stomach lining, providing more detailed X-ray images.
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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.
Causes Of Stomach Ulcers In Adults
- Stress: Stress is one of the most unrecognized causes of stomach ulcers. If you are under extreme stress, you are more likely to develop stomach ulcers. As well, if you place your body under extreme stress by smoking, drinking alcohol, or eating spicy food, you can also increase your chances of developing an ulcer.
However, there are some other common causes of stomach ulcers that you should rule out before attributing your case to stress.
- NSAIDs: NSAIDs are anti-inflammatory and anti-pain medications which are commonly used and include well-known brand names like Aspirin and Ibuprofen. These medications typically have few side effects, but long-term use can cause stomach ulcers in some cases.
- H. pylori infections: H. pylori infections are very common bacterial infections that can affect anyone. While they often do not cause symptoms, in some cases, an H. pylori infection can irritate your stomach lining and lead to ulcers.
- Zollinger-Ellison syndrome: Zollinger-Ellison syndrome is a rare disease, so its not a common cause of stomach ulcers, but when someone does have it, they will also likely have stomach ulcers. This disease causes an increase in the amount of stomach acid your body produces, which can damage your stomach lining.
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What Natural Home Remedies Help Peptic Ulcer Pain
Home care for peptic ulcers often centers on neutralizing the stomach acid.
- Dont 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.
- Dont take aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Acetaminophen is a good substitute for some conditions. If acetaminophen doesnt 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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Dull Pain In The Stomach
Dull and burning pain is the most common symptom of an ulcer. The pain is felt anywhere between the belly button and the breastbone. It can also travel out from the middle of the stomach up to the neck, down to the belly button, or through to the back.
Stomach acid helps break down and absorb the food consumed. Excess stomach acid makes the pain worse because it creates painful sores within the stomach.
This kind of pain is often more severewhenever the stomach is empty such as between meals or at night. Sometimes itcan also start a few hours after eating. This pain can last for several minutesto several hours. The burning pain is sometimes made better by eating or aggravatedbetween one and three hours after a meal. This occurs when food can no longerneutralize the acid produced by the stomach.
Taking antacids may help relieve some of the pain but it doesnt help cure the ulcer. The pain will just keep coming back. Eating certain foods can help buffer stomach acid.
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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.
Supplements May Be Beneficial
If your stomach ulcer is being treated with an antibiotic, consider taking a probiotic supplement as part of your diet plan. This can help reduce antibiotic-associated symptoms. It may also improve the effectiveness of the antibiotic.
Ask your doctor what probiotic would be best to take with your antibiotic medication. Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces supplements have shown benefits in people with H. pylori ulcers.
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