Understanding Stomach Ulcers
What is a peptic ulcer?
A peptic ulcer is a sore on the inner lining of the stomach or duodenum—the first part of the small intestine. It is similar to a break or hole in the lining of the stomach or upper intestine. Less commonly, a peptic ulcer may develop just above the stomach in the esophagus. A peptic ulcer is a sore on the inner lining of the stomach or duodenum.
What causes peptic ulcer disease?
Causes of peptic ulcer disease include: an infection with the bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, and/or rarely, cancerous or noncancerous tumors in the stomach, duodenum, or pancreas.
What are H. pylori?
H. pylori are spiral-shaped bacteria that can cause peptic ulcer disease by damaging the mucous coating that protects the lining of the stomach and duodenum. Once H. pylori have damaged the mucous coating, powerful stomach acid can get through to the sensitive lining. Together, the stomach acid andH. pylori irritate the lining of the stomach or duodenum and cause a peptic ulcer.
Who is more likely to develop an H. pylori-induced peptic ulcer?
A person who has contracted an H. pylori infection is more likely to develop an H. pylori-induced peptic ulcer. Researchers are uncertain how H. pyloriinfection spreads, although they think contaminated food, water, or eating utensils may spread the infection. Researchers have found H. pylori in the saliva of some infected people, suggesting infection may spread via direct contact with saliva or bodily fluids. Most contract H. pylori during childhood, and it remains dormant for years.
What are the signs and symptoms of peptic ulcer disease?
A dull or burning pain in the stomach is the most common symptom of peptic ulcer disease. A person can feel this pain anywhere between the navel and the breastbone. The pain usually: occurs when a person's stomach is empty—such as between meals or during the night, lessens briefly after eating food or taking antacids, lasts for minutes to hours, and/or comes & goes for days, weeks, or months.
Less common symptoms include: Bloating, burping, changes in appetite, nausea, vomiting and/or weight loss.
Seek Immediate Care
A person who has any of the following symptoms should call a health care provider right away: difficulty breathing, dizziness or feeling faint, red blood in the stool or black stools, red blood in vomit or vomit that looks like coffee grounds, and/or sharp, sudden, persistent, and severe stomach pain. These symptoms could be signs of peptic ulcer disease complications.
What are the complications of peptic ulcer disease?
Complications of peptic ulcer disease include: internal bleeding—when gastric acid or a peptic ulcer breaks a blood vessel, obstruction—when a peptic ulcer blocks the path of food trying to leave the stomach, perforation—when a peptic ulcer grows deeper and breaks completely through the stomach or duodenal wall, and/or peritonitis—when infection or inflammation develops in the peritoneum, or lining of the abdominal cavity.
How is peptic ulcer disease diagnosed?
Diagnoses of peptic ulcer disease are based on: a medical history, a physical exam, lab tests, upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy, upper GI series, and/or computerized tomography (CT) scan.
Points to Remember
A peptic ulcer is a sore on the inner lining of the stomach or duodenum..
Causes of peptic ulcer disease include: an infection with the bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), long-term use of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, and/or rarely, tumors in the stomach, duodenum, or pancreas.
A dull or burning pain in the stomach is the most common symptom of peptic ulcer disease. A person can feel this pain anywhere between the navel and the breastbone.
A health care provider will treat an H. pylori-induced peptic ulcer with: antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), histamine receptor blockers, bismuth subsalicylate and/or antacids.
At least 4 weeks after a patient's treatment ends, his or her health care provider will perform a breath or stool test again to be sure the treatment has cured the H. pylori infection.
Stress and spicy food are not causes of peptic ulcer disease; however, they can worsen symptoms. Drinking alcohol and smoking can also worsen a peptic ulcer and prevent healing.