Some ulcers may not cause symptoms. Others may cause pain and bleeding. Ulcers are rarely life threatening. Treatments for ulcers include lifestyle changes, medications, and surgery.
Your doctor can diagnose peptic ulcer disease after reviewing your medical history and by conducting a physical examination. You should tell your doctor about your symptoms and risk factors. Your doctor may order blood tests, stool tests, and a test for H. pylori bacteria. Your doctor may also order tests, including a Barium Swallow or an Upper Gastrointestinal Intestinal (GI) Endoscopy, to help confirm the diagnosis.
An Upper Gastrointestinal (GI) Series or Barium Swallow provides a set of X-rays showing the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine. Before the X-rays are taken, barium, a chalky substance, is swallowed. The barium provides a picture of the upper gastrointestinal structures on the X-ray images. A barium swallow is commonly used to determine the cause of pain, swallowing problems, blood stained vomit, and unexplained weight loss. A barium swallow is an outpatient procedure that does not require sedation or anesthesia.
An Upper Gastrointestinal Intestinal (GI) Endoscopy is a procedure that uses an endoscope to view the esophagus, stomach, and upper duodenum, the first part of the small intestine. This test is also called an esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) or a gastroscopy. An endoscope is a long thin tube with a light and a viewing instrument that sends images to monitor. The endoscope allows a doctor to examine the inside of the upper gastrointestinal tract for ulcers, bleeding, tumors, polyps, diseases, and other abnormal conditions. A tissue sample or biopsy can be taken with the endoscope. This is frequently done to test for H. pylori bacteria. An endoscope is also used to treat bleeding. An upper GI endoscopy is an outpatient procedure. You will receive medication to relax you prior to the test.
Your doctor may prescribe medication to treat your ulcer. Medication types include antibiotics, acid blockers, proton pump inhibitors, and tissue lining protectors. Most ulcers heal with medication in about eight weeks.
An Upper GI Endoscopy may be used to stop bleeding from ulcers. Perforated ulcers or severe bleeding may require surgery. A partial gastrectomy is a surgery that removes part of the stomach. A vagotomy is a surgery to cut the vagus nerve, the nerve that controls stomach acid production.
Am I at Risk
Risk factors may increase your likelihood of developing ulcers. People with all of the risk factors may never develop the condition; however, the chance of developing an ulcer increases with the more risk factors you have. You should tell your doctor about your risk factors and discuss your concerns.
Risk factors for ulcers:
_____ The use of aspirin and NSAIDs can cause ulcers.
_____ H. pylori bacterial infections can cause ulcers.
_____ Chronic gastritis can contribute to ulcer formation.
_____ Smoking cigarettes and using tobacco increase the likelihood of developing an ulcer.
_____ Excessive consumption of alcohol increases the risk of ulcer.
_____ The risk of ulcer development increases with age, especially after 50 years old.
_____ People with Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome may have excess acid from gastrinomas (tumors).
_____ People that use a mechanical ventilator to breathe have an increased risk of ulcer formation.
_____ A family history of ulcers is associated with an increased risk of developing ulcers.
_____ People with Type O blood have an increased risk for ulcer formation.
_____ People with liver, kidney, or lung disease are at risk for developing ulcers.
Research indicates that stress from home or work does not cause or worsen ulcers.
You should call Emergency Services in your area if you experience sharp abdominal pain, fainting, excessive sweating, or confusion. You should also call Emergency Services if you vomit blood or have blood in your stools or if your abdomen is hard and tender to touch. Call your doctor if you experience dizziness, lightheadedness, or ulcer symptoms.
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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.
The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on February 16, 2022. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.