Symptoms & Treatment for Peptic Ulcer Disease
What is stomach acid?
In order to digest any food that you eat, the stomach relies on acid to help break down and absorb minerals, as well as helps to kill certain bacterias and prevent them from entering the rest of the body. These acids are incredibly toxic, so it is important that your stomach is healthy and that the protective lining that keeps this acid from harming you remains intact.
What is peptic ulcer disease?
Peptic ulcer disease is a health condition that is characterized by stomach acid penetrating through the protective layers of your stomach lining, causing ulcers and extreme stomach pain. The problem is common, affecting an estimated four million Americans at some point during their lives.
When left untreated, a stomach ulcer can become so severe that a hole forms in the stomach lining. In addition, stomach tissue may swell and scar over time, which can block the outlet of the stomach. This leads to weight loss, vomiting, and even death in severe cases.
What causes peptic ulcer disease?
Despite a common misconception, ulcers are not caused by spicy foods or stress. Instead, most ulcers are caused by a bacterial infection. The cause for this is unknown, but the bacteria is likely transferred through food or water.
Another common cause of a stomach ulcer is the constant use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). These drugs are typically used to relieve pain, but when used long-term, they can increase your chances of developing an ulcer. The most commonly used NSAIDs include:
What are the symptoms of a stomach ulcer?
Patients who suffer from a stomach ulcer will commonly experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Stomach pain (usually between your breastbone and belly button)
- Stomach pain between meals
- Stomach pain that disturbs sleep
- Stomach pain that subsides with antacids, food, or water
In addition to stomach pain, other stomach ulcer symptoms might include:
- Decreased appetite
- Blood in vomit
- Blood in stools
How is peptic ulcer disease diagnosed?
If you are suffering from any of the above symptoms of peptic ulcer disease, it is important to visit Gotham Medical Associates for an evaluation. There are several tests that can determine if you are suffering from the disease and whether it was caused by a bacterial infection or another cause.
Stomach Ulcer Testing
A common test used to diagnose peptic ulcer disease is called an upper endoscopy, which involves moving a small, flexible tube through your mouth and into your stomach. At the end of the tube is a tiny camera, which lets your doctor see if your stomach lining has any damage to it and if there are signs of an infection. The procedure is generally performed while the patient is sedated, so it does not cause you any pain.
Alternatively, x-ray testing can be done in the form of a test called an upper GI (gastrointestinal) series. During this test, the patient is given a contrast fluid to drink, which creates sharp, clear images of the digestive tract when your doctor takes the x-rays. The contrast solution coats the inside of your esophagus, small intestine, and stomach so that all of these areas can be analyzed by your physician.
How are ulcers treated?
Depending on the cause of your ulcer, you may be recommended any of the following treatment options:
In some cases, surgery may be necessary. This is usually only needed when an ulcer fails to properly heal with medication or if there are complications involving bleeding or obstruction.