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:
What Are The Symptoms Of A Peptic Ulcer Does It Cause Pain
Ulcers do not always cause symptoms. Sometimes, a serious complication such as bleeding or a sudden, bad upper abdominal pain is the first sign of an ulcer.
The most common symptom of peptic ulcers is abdominal pain.
- The pain is usually in the upper middle part of the abdomen, above the belly button and below the breastbone.
- The ulcer pain can feel like burning, or gnawing, and it may go through to the back.
- Pain often comes several hours after a meal when the stomach is empty.
- The pain is often worse at night and early morning.
- It can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.
- The ulcer pain may be relieved by food, antacids, or vomiting.
Other symptoms of peptic ulcers include the following:
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of weight
Severe ulcers may cause bleeding in the stomach or duodenum. Bleeding is sometimes the only symptom of an ulcer. This bleeding can be fast or slow. Fast bleeding reveals itself in one of the following ways:
- Vomiting of blood or dark material that looks something like coffee grounds: This is an emergency and warrants an immediate visit to an emergency department.
- Blood in the stool or black, tarry, sticky-looking stools
Slow bleeding is often more difficult to detect, because it has no dramatic symptoms.
- The usual result is low blood cell count .
- The symptoms of anemia are tiredness , lack of energy , weakness, rapid heartbeat , and pale skin .
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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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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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:
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How Will Your Doctor Diagnose Ulcers
Your doctor will start by asking about your medical history and symptoms. Let your doctor know when and where you most often have symptoms.
Gastric and duodenal ulcers can cause pain in different parts of your abdomen. A variety of tests will usually be recommended since abdominal pain has many causes.
If your doctor thinks H. pylori may be the source of your symptoms, the following tests can confirm or rule out this possibility:
- A blood test. The presence of certain infection-fighting cells could mean you have an H. pylori infection.
- A stool antigen test. In this test, a stool sample is sent to a lab for testing. The test looks for certain proteins in the stool related to H. pylori.
- A urea breath test. A urea breath test involves swallowing a pill that contains a special formulation of urea. You breathe into a collection bag before and after swallowing the pill, and then your carbon dioxide levels are measured. When H. pylori is present, the urea in the pill is broken down into a certain type of carbon dioxide that can be detected.
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.
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What Are The Possible Complications
An untreated ulcer that swells or scars can block your digestive tract. It can also perforate your stomach or small intestine, infecting your abdominal cavity. That causes a condition known as peritonitis.
A bleeding ulcer can lead to anemia, bloody vomit, or bloody stools. A bleeding ulcer usually results in a hospital stay. Severe internal bleeding is life-threatening. Perforation or serious bleeding may require surgical intervention.
Peptic Ulcer Facts And Picture
- Peptic ulcer are sores in the lining of the esophagus, stomach or duodenum.
- The main symptom of a stomach or duodenal ulcer is upper abdominal pain, which can be dull, sharp, or burning .
- Other associated symptoms may include:
- Acid reflux or heartburn
- Feeling satiated when eating
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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.
When To See A Healthcare Provider/go To The Hospital
You may feel relief with an antacid, but you should not ignore symptoms of a peptic ulcer. If you have persistent symptoms for longer than a week, it is best to see your healthcare provider. He or she will determine whether you need prescription medications and whether you have complications, such as bleeding or anemia.
Make an appointment with your healthcare provider if you have:
- Pain that radiates to the back
- Pain that doesn’t go away when you take medication
- Unintended weight loss
- Vomiting blood
- Sudden, severe pain in the abdominal area
- Loss of consciousness
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What Is The Treatment For Peptic Ulcers
The choice of treatment depends on whether or not the ulcer is caused by infection with H pylori. Correct diagnosis is key to whether a treatment works or not. If the bacteria are the cause, treatment focuses on killing the infection. Regardless of whether the bacteria are the cause, reducing acid in the stomach is another important focus of treatment.
The following treatments are recommended for ulcers:
- Lifestyle changes: Quit smoking, avoid alcohol, aspirin, and NSAIDs
- Acid-blocking medications
- Medications that protect the lining of the stomach and duodenum
- “Triple-therapy” or “dual-therapy” regimens for ulcers caused by H pylori
No single medication works to get rid of H pylori infection. Two combinations have been found that work well in most people.
These treatments are generally given for two weeks.
Once H pylori bacteria are eradicated from a person’s digestive tract, usually it will not come back. The ulcers usually heal completely and do not return.
Treatment for bleeding ulcers depends on the severity of blood loss and includes:
It is important to remember that treatment may not work if the diagnosis is not correct. If the doctor diagnoses an ulcer, it is important to determine whether the ulcer is caused by infection with H pylori.
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
25495 Medical Center Drive, Suite 302Murrieta,CA92562
311 Haigh Road, Suite 200Newbury Park,CA91320
482 South Main Street Corona,CA92882
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What Are Other Symptoms
However,see a doctor for accurate diagnosis since some signs and symptoms are quitevogue.
Forexamples, stomach ulcer may also cause vogue symptoms such as nausea,heartburn, bloating , or fatty foods intolerance. Evenabout almost 75 percent of patients dont have signs and symptoms, according toMayo Clinic. This suggests that many people probably dont realize the diseaseuntil it becomes quite advanced .
Besidesanalyzing signs and symptoms you have, several tests are required to diagnosestomach ulcer accurately. These may include :
Moreover,several medical conditions can cause symptoms similar to those of stomachulcer. Therefore doctors may also need to consider these issues. Some of theseconditions are gastritis, esophagitis, nonulcer dyspepsia, or gastric cancer.
Again,its important to follow your ulcer treatment comprehensively to boost a completecure more likely. Without proper treatment, it might turn into serious.
Lessoften, severe signs and symptoms of stomach ulcer may occur. Some of these areas follows:
Peptic Ulcers Are Often Symptomless
About 30 percent of 60 year olds with confirmed peptic ulcer disease have no abdominal pain.24 This means 1 in 3 old people without the slightest hint of the major symptom of peptic ulcers actually have them.
As if it was not already challenging to diagnose what cannot be seen, sometimes individuals suffering from peptic ulcers do not experience any symptoms.
Older people and children are, unfortunately, at a higher risk of belonging to this no-symptoms niche. This increases the likelihood of a delayed diagnosis and grave complications like perforation and internal bleeding.
Another group of individuals who may struggle with identifying peptic ulcers are those who are heavily dependent on NSAIDs. Even though abdominal pain is the most prominent indicator of peptic ulcers, such is not always the case. To our dismay, 1 in 3 people with peptic ulcers dont have any abdominal pain, particularly those popping NSAIDs.252627 This resonates with research findings that NSAIDs mask the symptoms of peptic ulcers.28 It is, thus, advisable to exercise caution if you need to regularly take these painkillers to treat other conditions.
Having no symptoms or weak symptoms, hence, does not rule out the possibility of peptic ulcers.
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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.
How Are Esophageal Ulcers Caused
The main causes of esophageal ulcers are:
Exposure to stomach acid: This causes chronic inflammation and irritation of the esophagus, allowing ulcers to develop. Stomach acid exposure most often occurs in people with other gastrointestinal conditions. These can include hiatal hernias and GERD, or gastrointestinal reflux disease, more commonly referred to, as severe heartburn.
Caustic injury: Esophageal ulcers may be caused by ingesting a corrosive substance. This type of injury mostly affects children, but it can also occur in adults who experience psychosis, suicidal tendencies, or who are abusing alcohol.
Certain types of gastric surgery or foreign bodies can also cause esophageal ulcers.
Early intervention is key to preventing complications from esophageal ulcers.
In cases of acid reflux, treatment may include:
- Medication, such as antacids, H-2-receptor blockers, and proton pump inhibitors .
- Dietary and lifestyle changes, to aid digestion.
- Surgery, for severe cases. Types of surgeries include to tighten the LES valve near the top of the stomach or to insert a magnetic device to help the LES valve function.
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How Long Do Stomach Ulcers Take To Heal
Gastric ulcers that arent complicated can take up to two or three months to heal fully. It takes about six weeks for duodenal ulcers to heal. Without antibiotics, an ulcer can heal temporarily. However, if the bacteria are not destroyed, it is normal for an ulcer to recur or for another ulcer to form nearby.
Stomach Ulcer Risk Factors
A few risk factors can make it more likely that a peptic ulcer will develop.
- Smoking especially in people who are already infected with H. pylori
- Drinking alcohol
- Having a family history of ulcers
Additionally, people who take NSAIDs are more likely to develop an ulcer if they:
- Are over 70 years of age
- Take high doses of NSAIDs
- Are female
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You Have Pain Specifically In Your Upper Abdomen
One of the most common ulcer symptoms is a severe pain in the upper abdomen, according to Neil Sengupta, MD, a gastroenterology specialist at the University of Chicago. Ulcers can develop anywhere in the upper digestive track, but Dr. Sengupta says we often think about those occurring in the stomach or small intestine, where we feel pain. This pain usually occurs between the breastbone and belly button, and can bring on a burning, aching, or dull feeling. The sensation may begin as a light, mild pain but often progresses into something more serious as the ulcers develop.