Stomach ulcers can cause pain and other uncomfortable symptoms, and if they’re not treated, they could get worse and cause even more serious health issues.
In this blog, dual fellowship-trained Manhattan gastroenterologist Dr. Anthony Borcich provides information that can help you recognize symptoms that can be associated with a stomach ulcer so you can get the treatment you need.
What is a stomach ulcer?
A stomach ulcer – which is also called a peptic ulcer – is an open sore in your stomach lining or in the first part of your small intestine. If it’s located in the stomach lining, it’s called a gastric ulcer, and if it’s on the small intestine, it’s called a duodenal ulcer.
What causes this type of ulcer?
Your digestive tract has a layer of mucus that’s usually able to protect your stomach and small intestine from acid. But when you have too much acid or too little mucus, the acid can eat away at the lining of your stomach or small intestine, creating an ulcer.
This can occur due to one of the following:
- A bacterial infection – Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria live in the layer of mucus and can cause inflammation that results in an ulcer.
- Using some pain relievers frequently – Aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium can also irritate the lining of your stomach and small intestine.
- Other types of medication – Taking some other types of medications – including steroids and anticoagulants – with NSAIDs can increase your risk of getting an ulcer.
What are the symptoms of a stomach ulcer?
Common symptoms associated with a stomach ulcer include the following:
- Pain located somewhere between the breastbone and belly button. It can come and go.
- Feeling full or bloated in your abdomen
- Burping or hiccupping, especially after a meal
- Intolerance of fatty foods
- Flu-like symptoms, including fever and fatigue
- Change in appetite – either not feeling hungry or having frequent feelings of hunger
- Unexplained weight loss
Less commonly, ulcers can cause these more serious symptoms:
- Vomiting, which is sometimes accompanied by blood
- Black or bloody stools
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling faint
What are the treatment options for a stomach ulcer?
Without treatment, an ulcer can get worse over time and cause even more serious health problems. These can include a hole in the stomach wall or swelling or scarring that creates a blockage in the area leading from the stomach to the small intestine.
The following are some common ways to treat a stomach ulcer:
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPI) – These medications, which include Nexium and Prilosec, help reduce acid levels so your ulcer has a chance to heal.
- Antibiotics – Antibiotics can be used if H. pylori bacteria is present, and they may be combined with PPI and Pepto Bismol.
- Upper endoscopy (EGD) – Your doctor can use an endoscope (a flexible scope with a light and camera) to see your upper digestive tract and stop bleeding.
- Surgery – If your ulcer has caused a hole to form in the wall or your stomach, surgery may be necessary. It may also be needed if an upper endoscopy isn’t able to stop any bleeding that may be present.
If you have symptoms that could indicate the presence of a stomach ulcer, make an appointment today for an evaluation by Dr. Borcich. By treating a possible ulcer early, you can get relief from your symptoms and help avoid more complicated and serious health issues that can result over time.