Ulcers

An ulcer is an open sore in your stomach or small intestine. Your stomach has a lining designed to protect you from acidic digestive juices, but if the lining is no longer effective, you can develop an ulcer.

Symptoms of Stomach Ulcers

The most common symptom of a stomach ulcer is a burning sensation in your upper abdomen. Usually, the pain gets worse when your stomach is empty.

Other signs of a stomach ulcer may include:

  • Stomach pains or stomach cramps
  • Bloating
  • Loss of appetite because of pain
  • Nausea or vomiting, throwing up blood
  • Weight loss
  • Acid reflux or heartburn
  • Black stools due to bleeding

Even if your symptoms are mild, talk to your Mercy gastroenterologist. An untreated ulcer can get worse and potentially lead to life-threatening bleeding.

What Causes Stomach Ulcers?

For a long time, experts believed ulcers were brought on by stress or an excess amount of stomach acid. But that’s not actually the case. Most ulcers can be traced to two things:

  • A bacterial infection due to the Helicobacter pylori germ
  • Long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen

Smoking and drinking alcohol can make you more likely to get ulcers. Stress and eating spicy foods don’t cause ulcers, but they can make symptoms worse.

Types of Ulcers

Peptic Ulcer – lesions in the lining of your digestive tract, usually in your duodenum (first part of the small intestine beyond the stomach) or stomach. Caused by the digestive action of pepsin and stomach acid

Gastric Ulcer – a type of peptic ulcer on the inside of the stomach lining

Duodenal Ulcer – a type of peptic ulcer in the first part of the small intestine

Gastric and duodenal ulcers can occasionally cause severe symptoms, such as major bleeding, blockage of the stomach and perforation.

Stomach Ulcer Diagnosis

Your doctor will likely begin by reviewing your medical history and any prescriptions you’re taking.

You may also have an upper endoscopy to help locate the ulcer and rule out bacterial infection as the cause.

Stomach Ulcer Treatment

Treatment of your ulcer depends on the type and severity. If the cause of your ulcer is bacterial, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). If your ulcer was caused by NSAIDs, you can stop taking them and take PPIs.

Surgery may be necessary is your ulcer isn’t healing or if it’s bleeding, perforated or keeping your stomach from emptying.

Don’t try to treat an ulcer on your own. You may find temporary relief from your pain, but it will likely come back. Find a Mercy gastroenterologist who can help you get rid of your ulcer for good.

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