What are peptic ulcers?
Peptic ulcers are sores that develop in the lining of the stomach, lower esophagus, or small intestine. They’re usually formed as a result of inflammation caused by the bacteria H. pylori, as well as from erosion from stomach acids. Peptic ulcers are a fairly common health problem.
There are three types of peptic ulcers:
Gastric ulcers: ulcers that develop inside the stomach
Esophageal ulcers: ulcers that develop inside the esophagus Duodenal ulcers: ulcers that develop in the upper section of the small intestines, called the duodenum
Causes of peptic ulcers
- Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a type of bacteria that can cause a stomach infection and inflammation
- frequent use of aspirin (Bayer), ibuprofen (Advil), and other anti-inflammatory drugs (risk associated with this behavior increases in women and people over the age of 60)
- drinking too much alcohol
- radiation therapy
- stomach cancer
SThe most common symptom of a peptic ulcer is burning abdominal pain that extends from the navel to the chest, which can range from mild to severe. In some cases, the pain may wake you up at night. Small peptic ulcers may not produce any symptoms in the early phases.
Other common signs of a peptic ulcer include:
- changes in appetite
- bloody or dark stools
- unexplained weight loss
- chest pain
In this procedure, your doctor inserts a long tube with a camera down your throat and into your stomach and small intestine to examine the area for ulcers. This instrument also allows your doctor to remove tissue samples for examination.
Not all cases require an upper endoscopy. However, this procedure is recommended for people with a higher risk of stomach cancer. This includes people over the age of 45, as well as people who experience:
- weight loss
- gastrointestinal bleeding
- difficulty swallowing
- Upper GI
If you don’t have difficulty swallowing and have a low risk of stomach cancer, your doctor may recommend an upper GI test instead. For this procedure, you’ll drink a thick liquid called barium (barium swallow). Then a technician will take an X-ray of your stomach, esophagus, and small intestine. The liquid will make it possible for your doctor to view and treat the ulcer.
Because H. pylori are a cause of peptic ulcers, your doctor will also run a test to check for this infection in your stomach.