When Should You Call Or See A Doctor
If you think you have a stomach ulcer, call your doctor. Together you can discuss your symptoms and treatment options. If you dont already have a physician, you can use the Healthline FindCare tool to find a provider near you.
Its important to get a stomach ulcer taken care of because without treatment, ulcers and H. pylori can cause:
- bleeding from the ulcer site that can become life-threatening
- penetration, which occurs when the ulcer goes through the wall of the digestive tract and into another organ, such as the pancreas
- perforation, which occurs when the ulcer creates a hole in the wall of the digestive tract
- obstruction in the digestive tract, which is due to swelling of inflamed tissues
- stomach cancer, specifically
Symptoms of these complications can include those listed below. If you have any of these symptoms, be sure to call you doctor right away:
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 Are Some Ulcer Symptoms
Some people with ulcers dont experience any symptoms. But signs of an ulcer can include:
- Gnawing or burning pain in your middle or upper stomach between meals or at night.
- Pain that temporarily disappears if you eat something or take an antacid.
In severe cases, symptoms can include:
- Dark or black stool .
- Severe pain in your mid- to upper abdomen.
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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.
- Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Peptic Ulcer
Youâll most likely feel a burning pain or discomfort between your belly button and breastbone. You might especially notice it on an empty stomach 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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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.
You Bleed When You Use The Bathroom
Blood coming from the gastrointestinal tract can signal a variety of underlying health issues, but Dr. Sengupta says when this bleeding is combined with upper abdominal pain, hes highly suspicious that its one of the signs of an ulcer. Many patients notice this blood either when vomiting, or when using the bathroom, as their stools may appear black. If you notice youre suffering from a bleeding GI tract, along with nausea and pain in the stomach or chest, Dr. Sengupta says doctors will often perform a blood test or an upper endoscopywhere they use a camera to look into the stomach itselfto check if an ulcer is the culprit. Blood in your stool can also be due to hemorrhoids or a symptom of colon cancer, so its a good idea to get checked out by your doctor.
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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.
How Stomach Ulcers Are Treated
With treatment, most stomach ulcers will heal within a month or two. The treatment recommended for you 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 their stomach produces and allow the ulcer to heal naturally.
If an H. pylori infection is responsible for the ulcers, antibiotics will also be used to kill the bacteria, which should prevent the ulcer coming back.
If the ulcers are caused by the use of NSAIDs, PPIs are usually prescribed and your doctor will discuss whether you should keep using NSAIDs.
Alternative medication to NSAIDs, such as paracetamol, may be recommended.
Stomach ulcers can come back after treatment, although this is less likely to happen if the underlying cause is addressed.
Read more about treating stomach ulcers.
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When Should I Call My Healthcare Provider
See your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these symptoms:
- Vomiting blood or dark material that looks like coffee grounds
- Extreme weakness or dizziness
- Nausea or vomiting that doesnt get better, or gets worse
- A sudden, severe pain that may spread to your back
- Losing weight without even trying
Untreated peptic ulcers may cause other health problems. Sometimes they bleed. If they become too deep, they can break through your stomach.
Ulcers can also keep food from going through your stomach.
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.
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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 Are Ulcers Treated
Treatment for gastric and duodenal ulcers depends on the causes and how severe your symptoms are. For example, your doctor may prescribe histamine receptor blockers or proton pump inhibitors to reduce the amount of acid and protect your stomach lining.
For H. pylori infections, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics, PPIs, and other medications to fight the bacteria and promote healing. These medications include mucosal protective agents, which help protect your stomachs mucus lining.
If NSAIDs caused the peptic ulcer, youll often be advised on how to reduce or eliminate your use.
If the ulcer is actively bleeding, your doctor can use special tools to stop the bleeding through an endoscope during the EGD procedure.
In cases that medication or endoscopic therapy doesnt work, your doctor may recommend surgery. If the ulcer becomes deep enough to cause a hole through the wall of your stomach or duodenum, this is a medical emergency and surgery is most often required to fix the problem.
An untreated gastric or duodenal ulcer can develop into a serious problem, especially if you have certain existing medical conditions.
The most common complications of ulcers are:
You may not be able to completely remove your risk for developing an ulcer, but there are things you can do to lower your risk and prevent them:
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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.
Chronic Lower Abdominal Symptoms
The lower GI tract begins after the duodenum. It runs from the small intestines to the large intestines, or colon, to the anus.
There are several digestive disorders that can contribute to intestinal symptoms such as lower abdominal pain, cramping, and bowel movement problems.
Some common lower GI disorders include:
- Celiac disease:People who have celiac disease can’t eat gluten since it damages the small intestine. Celiac disease is often mistaken for other gastrointestinal disorders before it’s correctly diagnosed. Your doctor needs to run blood tests and other labs to determine if your symptoms are related to celiac disease.
- Diverticulitis: Diverticulitis is the inflammation of diverticula, which are bulging pouches in the walls of the intestines. Symptoms include sharp pains in the lower left abdomen, usually accompanied by a fever. If left untreated, diverticulitis can cause life-threatening complications.
- Inflammatory bowel disease: This is an umbrella term for two separate conditions: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both are chronic conditions that require lifelong monitoring and treatment.
- Irritable bowel syndrome : People dealing with this very common digestive disorder have recurring abdominal pain and may suffer from diarrhea, constipation, or both.
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How Do You Treat Stomach Ulcers In Dogs
A veterinarian will treat a canine gastric ulcer by addressing its root cause. If your vet associates the ulcer with NSAIDs, for example, he or she will discontinue the use of these drugs immediately. Your veterinarian may also try to lower the level of gastric acid in your dogs stomach using an H2 blocking agent to facilitate healing. Other drug therapies may also be necessary to alleviate pain and inflammation. A dog with a gastric ulcer and organ perforation may need to undergo emergency surgery in the most severe cases. Talk to your vet about gastric ulcers in dogs for more information.
Alana Redmond is a content writer that specializes in law and consumer safety. She also works with Douglas, Haun & Heidemann, P.C a personal injury law firm in Springfield, MO that specializes in dog bite injuries and accidents.
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Living With Peptic Ulcer Disease
Most ulcers heal within about 8 weeks. Peptic ulcers come and go. You have to do what you can to reduce your risk. If you smoke or chew tobacco, ask your doctor about how to quit. Eat a well-balanced diet. Avoid foods that cause discomfort. These include alcohol, coffee, caffeinated soda, fatty foods, chocolate, and spicy foods. Avoid eating late at night. Talk to your doctor about alternatives to NSAIDs. Take all medicines with plenty of water.
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Treating Acid Reflux And Ulcers
Because such a large portion of the population experiences gastrointestinal issues like GERD, acid reflux and ulcers, there are a lot of potential treatments, pharmaceuticals and home remedies. If youve been experiencing these symptoms for a while, you are no doubt familiar with over-the-counter medicines, such as antacid pills and acid blockers .
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.
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Heartburn And Acid Reflux
Acid reflux occurs when acid escapes out of the stomach. This can be due to a weak valve that is supposed to hold in the acid. This valve is a muscle that is responsible for keeping food in the stomach. When it doesnt close completely, the stomach acid can make its way up the esophagus, which causes the sensation of burning.
Reflux can also occur when food doesnt digest properly. The contents of your stomach get getting backed up and you end up with stomach acid in your esophagus.
As you may have heard, acid reflux is often NOT caused by too much acid. Instead, it can actually result from too little acid in your stomach. If theres not enough acid in your stomach, food wont digest quickly enough. Your body responds to this by pumping in more stomach juices, and this can cause an overproduction of these fluids.
This overflow can lead to reflux. Acid reflux is also highly related to the presence of Helicobacter pylori , though just because you have H. pylori doesnt mean you have acid reflux.
The goal in addressing acid reflux is to get your gastric balance back to normal. A very good first step is to eliminate known trigger foods , and see what other hidden triggers might exist. Personally, I know that alcohol and coffee are virtually guaranteed to lead to heartburn for me.
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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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.