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:
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.
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.
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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.
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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What Kind Of Doctor Treats Stomach Cancer
There is a team of specialists that cares for people with stomach cancer:
- Gastroenterologist: a doctor who specializes in the stomach and intestines
- Surgical oncologist: a doctor who surgically removes cancer tumors and cancerous cells
- Medical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with oral or systemic medication
- Radiation oncologist: a doctor who specializes in treating cancer with radiation therapy
- Pathologist: a doctor who evaluates cells, tissues and organs and performs other laboratory tests to diagnose disease
- Radiologist: a doctor who uses imaging tests to diagnose disease
Depending on your condition and where you are in your treatment, you may meet with any one of these specialists at a given time.
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 received 23 testimonials and 80% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 3,718,506 times.
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Bleeding Ulcers Symptoms And Causes
Bleeding ulcers are a big deal. Often having endoscopy is diagnostic and therapeutic. A gastroenterologist can use a fiberoptic camera to view the inside of the stomach and duodenum, searching for a source of bleeding.
Symptoms of a bleeding ulcer include:
- Abdominal discomfort after eating
- Upper abdominal burning or hunger pain 1 to 3 hours after eating or in the middle of the night
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:
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Do You Have A Stomach Ulcer
If you suspect that you have a stomach ulcer, it is beyond important that you seek medical attention as soon as possible. As you can tell from the symptoms listed above, things can only get worse if your ulcer goes untreated. Call the experts at West Gastroenterology in Los Angeles today and make an appointment!
8110 Airport Boulevard, 2nd FloorLos Angeles,CA90045
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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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Can Peptic Ulcers Be Prevented
Doctors arent sure how H. pylori bacteria spread from person to person. The bacteria have been found in saliva , so kissing may be one way. They also may spread through food, water, or contact with vomit thats infected with the bacteria.
Regular use of NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal problems and bleeding in some people. Acetaminophen does not cause stomach ulcers and is a good alternative to NSAIDs.
As with many infections, washing your hands well and often is an important part of ulcer prevention. This is extra important after you use the bathroom and before you eat. And take good care of your body by exercising regularly and not smoking or drinking.
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.
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How Do Nsaids Cause A Peptic Ulcer
To understand how NSAIDs cause peptic ulcer disease, it is important to understand how NSAIDs work. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs reduce pain, fever, and inflammation, or swelling.
Everyone has two enzymes that produce chemicals in your bodys cells that promote pain, inflammation, and fever. NSAIDs work by blocking or reducing the amount of these enzymes that your body makes. However, one of the enzymes also produces another type of chemical that protects the stomach lining from stomach acid and helps control bleeding. When NSAIDs block or reduce the amount of this enzyme in your body, they also increase your chance of developing a peptic ulcer.
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.
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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 Causes An Ulcer
Most peptic ulcers are caused by:
- bacteria called Helicobacter pylori infecting the stomach and upper intestine. They weaken the protective coating of the stomach and upper small intestine. Acid in the stomach then gets through to the sensitive lining underneath. Acid and bacteria irritate this lining, causing ulcers.
- using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , such as ibuprofen and aspirin. These medicines fight inflammation and help treat long-term, painful conditions like arthritis. If taken in high doses over a long period of time, NSAIDs can cause ulcers in some people.
- smoking cigarettes. Smoking increases the risk of ulcers because nicotine causes the stomach to make more acid. Drinking a lot of alcohol each day for a period of time can also increase a person’s risk of ulcers. Over time, alcohol can wear down the lining of the stomach and intestines.
Sometimes stress can help cause ulcers. Usually this happens only when a person has an illness involving severe emotional or physical stress. Any illness that makes it hard for the body to heal also can make someone more likely to get an ulcer.
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Does Stomach Cancer Affect Men And Women Differently
It is important to look for signs of stomach cancer in adults over the age of 55. However, it most commonly affects those in their 60s or 70s. While it is crucial to be aware of the signs of stomach cancer in females, men are more likely to develop stomach cancer. In 2020, 16,980 men and 10,620 women are projected to be diagnosed with the disease. Men have a lifetime risk of 1 in 95 of developing stomach cancer, while women have a 1 in 154 risk. The signs of stomach cancer in men are typically no different than in women.
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
- Blood in your stools
- 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.
What Are The Causes
Contrary to popular belief, stress and spicy foods do not cause stomach ulcers. They may aggravate an already existing ulcer but definitely not be the cause for one.
Another cause of stomach ulcers is the long-term use of pain medications known as NSAIDs . NSAIDs can weaken the stomach linings ability to resist acid made in the stomach.
Aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen are some examples of NSAID medications.
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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.
Warning Signs Of Peptic Ulcer Disease
Peptic ulcer disease occurs when an individual experiences the perpetual development of peptic ulcers. These ulcers present as open sores, which develop on the lining of the stomach and in the small intestine. There are two types of peptic ulcers: gastric and duodenal. Gastric ulcers develop on the inside lining of the stomach, whereas duodenal ulcers affect the upper part of the small intestine.
Peptic ulcers may be caused by a variety of things, including a bacterial infection, long-term use of anti-inflammatories, stress, and even excessive consumptions of spicy foods. Individuals who smoke or consume excessive amounts of alcohol are also at an increased risk of developing peptic ulcers.
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How To Have A Healthy Stomach
Whether youre prone to ulcers, or youve never had one before and want to avoid it at all costs, preventing them starts with making sure digestion is optimized. Even if you get H. pylori, a healthy bacterial balance in the stomach and elsewhere in the digestive tract can help to keep it in balance and even eradicate it.
H. pylori affects as much as half of the worlds population, so the chances of having it or getting it at some point are pretty high. Having reduced inflammation in the body as well as eating plenty of certain types of foods, can reduce the chance of H. pylori creating negative health problems, including ulcers.