Stomach Peptic Ulcers
Peptic ulcers are breaks (or wounds in) the lining of the parts of the upper gut that are exposed to stomach acid. Peptic ulcers can occur in the stomach (gastric ulcer), the first part of the small intestine (duodenal ulcer), and in the oesophagus (gullet). About 10% of people in the developed world will have an ulcer at some time in their life. Some of best in class NYC gastroenterologists, commonly, quickly, and successfully treats peptic ulcers. Peptic ulcer disease should always be evaluated with a thorough consultation and examination by a gastroenterologist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan as it may be a symptom of a serious illness or condition that needs immediate attention.
Ulcers sometimes don’t show any symptoms, especially if the sores are small enough, but what makes you aware of an ulcer is usually a sensation of burning pain. Typically, you’ll feel this pain in your abdomen, from your chest down to your navel. The pain will feel worse at night and when your stomach is empty. Depending on your eating habits, the pain may disappear for days at a time, after eating certain foods or after you take over-the-counter antacid medication.
In addition to the pain associated with peptic ulcer disease, you may suffer nausea or vomiting, including vomiting blood. You also may see blood in your stool. Bloating and heartburn are other symptoms of an ulcer. Your appetite may change or you may experience unexplained weight loss. These are serious symptoms that need immediate attention by a gastroenterologist.
When stomach acid comes in contact with an ulcer or open sore in or around your stomach, it can cause pain. But what causes an ulcer to form in the first place? First of all, stress and diet do not cause peptic ulcer disease. An ulcer develops when either the amount of acid in your stomach increases or the amount of protective mucus decreases.
One likely cause is the bacteria in the mucus, specifically the Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) variety. Sometimes, it can cause inflammation that leads to an ulcer. Another cause might be the regular use of certain medications, such as NSAIDs and osteoporosis medicines. Potassium supplements are another potential cause.
When you come in to see one of our NYC gastroenterologists, they will examine you and discuss the medications you take and your recent diet. If they suspect peptic ulcer disease, but find you don’t take any of the medicines known to cause the disease, they may confirm the presence of H. pylori through a blood, stool or breath test.
Another way to diagnose your peptic ulcer disease is through an upper endoscopy, which allows the doctor to visually confirm the existence of an ulcer and even take a biopsy sample to check for H. pylori. They are more likely to do an upper endoscopy if you are over 50 and have seen blood in your stool, experienced unexplained weight loss or have difficulty swallowing or although there are many other reasons that they may need to perform upper endoscopy depending on your specific case to diagnose and treat your condition.
Sometimes a simple lifestyle or diet change is enough to help heal your ulcer. If you drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes or take NSAIDs regularly, for example, stopping those habits definitely helps. Medication often is needed to heal an ulcer. Antibiotics, acid suppressants or acid blockers and cytoprotective agents — medicines that protect your stomach lining — all can help heal your ulcer.
If these techniques don’t work, it could be a sign of a more serious illness like Crohn’s disease or Zollinger-Ellison syndrome which needs further workup by your gastroenterologist. To keep peptic ulcer disease from returning, quit smoking, avoid alcohol, don’t overindulge in NSAIDs, and seek proper medical treatment from a specialist.