What You Need to Know about Peptic Ulcers


Learning about Peptic Ulcer symptoms is important.

Peptic ulcers are sores that form on the inside lining of your esophagus, stomach or duodenum (upper part of the small intestine). Peptic ulcers are usually caused by an infection, but in 20-40 percent of peptic ulcer cases, there is no known cause. An old wives’ tale holds that stress or a poor diet causes all ulcers. However, no scientific evidence exists to show that ulcers are caused by anxiety or poor diet, although these factors can sometimes make ulcer symptoms worse.

Symptoms of peptic ulcers include:

  • Upper abdominal pain, often described as “burning”
    • Often feels worse at night or when your stomach is empty
    • Can be relieved temporarily by eating or taking antacids
    • Is on/off – can go away for a few days, but then returns
  • Less common symptoms of peptic ulcers:
    • Dark-colored vomit or stool
    • Nausea
    • Rapid, unexplained weight loss
    • Changes in appetite

GI specialists diagnose peptic ulcers with the use of an endoscopy.  The endoscopy allows your doctor to take a look at your upper GI tract and determine if your symptoms coincide with peptic ulcer symptoms or symptoms of some other condition. Peptic ulcers are treated according to the type of infection which caused them; therefore, treatment and medications can vary from patient to patient. Your doctor will determine the type of infection and may recommend acid-suppression to provide relief from symptoms and eventual healing. Antibiotics are another treatment option, although many ulcers tend to heal naturally after six or weeks or so.  But because six weeks is a long time to be uncomfortable, we still recommend that you seek the advice of a trained GI specialist.

Peptic ulcers can be serious if a person experiences the following symptoms:

  • Sharp pain that come on quickly and will not go away
  • Stool that is black and/or bloody
  • Vomit that is bloody or “looks like coffee grounds”

Please contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms as it is possible that your peptic ulcer could have broken a blood vessel, perforated your stomach or duodenum wall, or is preventing food from moving through your stomach.

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