Stomach ulcers are small holes in your stomach, or in the first foot of your intestinal tract. When you have severe abdominal pain, S. Radi Shamsi, MD, of Los Angeles Gastroenterology Clinic in Santa Monica, California, can check to see if you have an ulcer, and where it is. If the ulcer is in your stomach, it is called a gastric ulcer, and some of these may become malignant. The more common ulcers, those in your upper intestine, are duodenal ulcers. Peptic ulcers are used to describe either one. Dr. Shamsi diagnoses and treats any type of gastrointestinal ulcer, so you won’t have to live in discomfort any longer.
Peptic ulcers can be a condition all on their own, or may form as a result of another disease or health issue. All peptic ulcers are caused by a loss of the mucous lining that normally protects your stomach and intestine from the harsh digestive hydrochloric acid. H. pylori, a bacteria, is also known to contribute to the majority of ulcers.
If the mucosal lining in your stomach is damaged, a gastric ulcer may occur. Or if your stomach produces excessive amounts of stomach acid, or you have abnormal stress or certain genetic factors, a duodenal ulcer can form, or become worse. Extended use of aspirin or NSAIDs, or smoking, can also lead to an ulcer.
Likely, yes. Ulcers usually cause a burning pain, much like heartburn, that lasts anywhere from 30 minutes, to three hours. The pain can happen anywhere between the bottom of your breastbone and your lower abdomen. Ulcers frequently make it difficult to sleep through the night.
Pain can occur during or after eating, and it can come and go over periods of weeks. Gastric ulcers can lead to weight loss, or loss of appetite. Duodenal ulcers can have the opposite effect. Bouts of vomiting, bloody or black stools, and anemia are other symptoms of having an ulcer.
While medications can be prescribed based on your symptoms without testing, several tests can be used to examine and confirm the diagnosis. In addition to X-rays, an endoscopy, which lets Dr. Shamsi visually examine your esophagus and stomach lining, can be helpful. Laboratory tests of your blood, breath, or of tissue samples, can be used to check for H. pylori, a common cause of ulcers.
Once Dr. Shamsi diagnoses your ulcer, treatment usually begins with prescription strength acid reducers called proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs. There are a variety of these available. Other means to prevent future ulcers, such as treating H. pylori, include avoiding certain medications, foods, alcohol, or cigarettes.