Stomach & Intestine Ulcers

Stomach and Intestine Ulcers Q & A

What is a peptic ulcer?

Peptic ulcers happen when the inner lining in your esophagus, stomach, or duodenum (the upper part of your small intestine) breaks. They result from the digestive acids in your stomach damaging the lining, creating painful sores that sometimes bleed. A peptic ulcer in your stomach is called a gastric ulcer, while a peptic ulcer in your small intestine is called a duodenal ulcer.
The primary symptom of peptic ulcers is a burning abdomen pain. This pain is usually worse when your stomach is empty, either between meals or at night, and you may get brief relief from taking an antacid or eating foods that are gentle on your stomach.
If you have an ulcer, you can experience the pain for days, weeks, or even months at a time. Ulcers are a common health complaint and often recur even after they heal if you don’t take steps to prevent them.

What causes ulcers?

The most common cause of peptic ulcers is Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria. Many people have H. pylori bacteria in the protective lining of their stomach and small intestine. Though the bacteria doesn’t necessarily cause problems, it can inflame the inner layer of your stomach or small intestine, leading to ulcers.
Use of certain pain relief medications can also inflame your stomach and intestinal lining, leading to peptic ulcers. People who frequently take aspirin or certain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including ibuprofen and naproxen, are at increased risk of developing peptic ulcers.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t develop ulcers just from being stressed, eating spicy foods, drinking alcohol, or smoking cigarettes. However, these factors can make ulcers worse and prevent them from healing properly.

How are peptic ulcers treated?

The treatment for ulcers depends in part on what’s causing them. If the physician discovers H. pylori in your digestive tract through a lab test, they prescribe an antibiotic to kill the bacteria.
If your ulcer is from using NSAIDs, they may recommend switching medications. In the event you can’t stop taking the NSAID, the physician advises you on ways to mitigate their effect on your digestive system, including using the lowest possible effective dose and always taking them with meals.
Ulcer treatment usually also requires medication to control stomach acid and allow the ulcer to heal. These include protein pump inhibitors, which block the production of stomach acid. In addition to medication, the physician advises you on eating a healthy diet and avoiding factors that can aggravate the pain of ulcers, including by controlling stress and getting enough sleep.