A peptic ulcer is an open sore that develops on the inside lining of the stomach and the upper portion of the small intestine. Peptic ulcers also include gastric ulcers which form on the inside of the stomach and duodenal ulcers that develop in the upper portion of the small intestine.
Symptoms of a Peptic Ulcer
A lot of people who have peptic ulcers are asymptomatic – which means they experience no symptoms. The most common symptom of a peptic ulcer is a dull pain in one particular part of the stomach. That is generally where the ulcer is located. There are also a host of other symptoms you can experience, including:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Acid reflux or heartburn
- Weight loss
- Feeling bloated or full easily
- Dark or bloody stools or stools that look similar to coffee grounds
Causes of Peptic Ulcers
The most common cause of peptic ulcers is an infection caused by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). An imbalance of the digestive fluids (hydrochloric acids and pepsin in the stomach and upper portion of the small intestine) ends up making way for ulcer development. Long term use of NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen) or a family history of peptic ulcers can also increase your risk of developing them.
The idea that peptic ulcers are caused by stress and spicy foods is false. However, once formed, peptic ulcers can get aggravated by these things. Smoking or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can also make the ulcers worse.
Treating a Peptic Ulcer
Treatment for ulcers is generally achieved by treating the underlying cause, controlling symptoms, and preventing the ulcers from getting worse. If H. pylori is the reason for your ulcer, your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics to get rid of the bacteria.
Next, your doctor will try to limit the production of gastric acids so the peptic ulcer can have a chance to heal. This is achieved through medications known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). PPIs reduce stomach acid by blocking cells from producing it. Examples of PPIs include omeprazole, lansoprazole, and rabeprazole. Your doctor may also prescribe H2 receptor blockers (also to block acid production) and probiotics (to help kill off H. pylori).
During this time, you will be instructed to reduce your stress and not consume acidic and spicy foods – which all contribute to ulcer irritation. Your doctor may also ask you to stop using NSAIDs to allow the ulcer to heal.
Ulcers are treatable and most patients are able to find relief using these treatment methods. Your doctor will consider your overall health, other medications, and the condition of your ulcer to determine which is the best course of treatment for you.
Peptic Ulcer Treatment in Central Texas
If you have a peptic ulcer or suspect you might have one based on the symptoms you are experiencing, consider seeing the experts at Austin Gastroenterology. We have substantial experience treating peptic ulcers and would love to help you find relief. To make an appointment, call one of our locations that is convenient for you or request an appointment online.