Peptic Ulcer Peptic ulcers are sores that appear in the lower esophagus, stomach, or small intestine. Most commonly, they form due to inflammation caused by the bacteria H. pylori and erosion from stomach acids. This condition is a pretty common health problem. Types of peptic ulcers: Esophageal ulcers: ulcers that develop inside the esophagus Gastric ulcers: ulcers that develop inside the stomach Duodenal ulcers: ulcers that develop in the upper section of the small intestine Causes of Peptic Ulcers The factors that cause the esophagus, the stomach, and the small intestine to break down vary. They include: Regular use of ibuprofen, aspirin, and other anti-inflammatory drugs Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori ), a form of bacteria which causes stomach inflammation and infection Excessive alcohol consumption Smoking Radiation therapy Stomach cancer Symptoms of Peptic Ulcers The most prevalent symptom of a peptic ulcer is pain and burning sensation in the abdominal area which extends from the navel to the chest. It may range from mild to severe. There are cases where people are awoken at night due to the pain they feel. Smaller peptic ulcers sometimes don’t show any symptoms in the early phases. Other common signs of a peptic ulcer include: Nausea Vomiting Changes in appetite Unexplained weight loss Bloody or dark stools Chest pain Indigestion Exams and Tests for Peptic Ulcers To diagnose a peptic ulcer, there are two types of tests available. They are called upper gastrointestinal (GI) series and upper endoscopy. Upper GI If you have a low risk of cancer and don’t have difficulty swallowing, your doctor might recommend an upper GI test. During the procedure, you will be give a thick liquid to drink called barium (barium swallow). Then the doctor will capture an X-ray of your small intestine, esophagus, and stomach. This special liquid makes it possible for the doctor to see and treat the ulcer. Your doctor will also run a test to check for H. pylori since it’s a common infection of the stomach and a cause of peptic ulcers. Upper Endoscopy During this procedure, a long tube with a camera at the end will be inserted down your throat and into your stomach and small intestine. Which will allow the doctor to examine the area for ulcers. Your doctor will also be able to remove tissue samples for further examination using this instrument. Upper endoscopy isn’t required in all cases. But it is recommended for people who have a higher risk of stomach cancer. People that fall into this category are those over the age of 45, or people who experience: Weight loss Anemia Difficulty swallowing Gastrointestinal bleeding Treating Peptic Ulcers The underlying cause of your ulcer will determine the type of treatment that will be assigned. If tests will find traces of H. pylori, you will be prescribed a combination of medications. They will have to be taken for up to two weeks. Most common medications prescribed include proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) to help with reducing the stomach acid and antibiotics to kill infections. Side effects like an upset stomach from antibiotic regimens or diarrhea might be experienced by the patient. Talk to your gastroenterologist if these side effects create great discomfort and don’t get better with time. Patients that don’t have an H. pylori infection could be recommended to take prescription or over-the-counter PPI (such as Prevacid or Prilosec) for up to eight weeks to help lower the stomach acid and help the ulcer heal. Acid blockers such as famotidine (Pepcid) or ranitidine can also be helpful in reducing acid and ulcer pain. They are available both as a prescription and over-the-counter in smaller doses. Another medicine that might be prescribed by your doctor is sucralfate (Carafate) which coats your stomach to lessen the symptoms of peptic ulcers. Complications of a Peptic Ulcer Peptic ulcers that aren’t treated will become worse over time. This may lead to more serious complications like: Internal bleeding: Ulcers that bleed cause significant blood loss and will require hospitalization. Signs of bleeding ulcer are dizziness, lightheadedness, and black stools. Perforation: The development of a hole in the small intestine or the stomach which will cause an infection. A sign of perforated ulcer is severe abdominal pain. Scar tissue: A thick tissue that may develop after an injury. It created difficulty for food to reach your digestive tract. Signs include weight loss and vomiting. All of these complications are very serious and might require surgery. Urgent medical attention will be needed if you have any of the following symptoms: Blood in vomit or stool Sudden, sharp abdominal pain Excessive sweating, fainting, or confusion – they can be signs of shock Abdominal pain that gets worse with movement but goes away when lying still Abdomen that’s hard to the touch Outlook Most peptic ulcers heal with proper treatment. Some things that can prevent healing – use of tobacco, alcohol, stopping your medication treatment early, and taking nonsteroidal pain relievers during treatment. After your initial treatment, a follow-up appointment will be scheduled to evaluate your recovery progress.