The most common symptom of an ulcer is pain or burning in the affected area, but other, more serious, symptoms can include:
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Unexplained weight loss
- Dark blood in stool
- Vomiting blood
If you experience persistent pain, burning, or any of these more severe symptoms, you should see your doctor immediately.
If peptic ulcers are left untreated, they can result in serious complications, including:
- Internal bleeding
- Scarring and strictures
Peritonitis (A serious infection of the abdominal cavity)
Peptic ulcers are created when your body’s natural digestive acids burn the lining of the esophagus, stomach, or small intestine away. There are several risk factors that can make this more likely to happen.
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- Excessive drinking
- Use of NSAID painkillers, such as Aspirin,Naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), and Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, some types of Midol, others)
- A previous illness
- Certain osteoporosis medications (Actonel, Fosamax, and other bisphosphonates)
- Use of potassium supplements
- Radiation treatment for a previous illness
- H. Pylori Bacteria that commonly lives in the lining of the stomach and small intestine. On occasion, it can cause inflammation of the stomach, producing an ulcer.
To confirm a diagnosis of peptic ulcers, your doctor may recommend one of several tests, including:
- H. Pylori Bacteria can be detected using blood, breath, and stool tests.
- Upper Endoscopy
- X-rays of the upper digestive system
Treatment will depend on the cause of the ulcers. Some treatment options include:
- Antibiotics – used if the ulcers are caused by H. pylori. If antibiotics are used, your doctor is likely to also recommend a medication to reduce stomach acid while the ulcers heal.
- Proton pump inhibitors – Medications that reduce stomach acid by blocking its production on a cellular level. Examples of proton pump inhibitors include:
- Omeprazole (Prilosec)
- Lansoprozale (Prevacid)
- Rabeprazole (Aciphex)
- Esomeprazole (Nexium)
- Pantoprazole (Protonix)
- Acid Blockers – Or histamine blockers, these medications reduce the amount of stomach acid released into the digestive tract. Examples of acid blockers include:
- Ranitidine (Zantac)
- Famotidine (Pepcid)
- Cimetidine (Tagamet)
- Nizatidine (Axid)
- Antacids – Medications that neutralize existing stomach acid. They provide fast pain relief, but are not generally used as a primary treatment for ulcers.
- Cytoprotective agents – Medications that protect the lining of the stomach and the small intestine. Examples of cytoprotective agents include:
- Sucralfate (Carafate)
- Misoprostol (Cytotec)
- Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol)