An ulcer is a sore that develops in the intestines, stomach or another portion of the digestive tract. Most ulcers are found in the duodenum, which is the first portion of the small intestine after the stomach. Ulcers in the stomach are called gastric ulcers, and those in the esophagus are known as esophageal ulcers.
In most cases, ulcers are initially caused by an infection from the Helicobacter pylori bacteria. They may also be caused by long-term use of over-the-counter pain relievers like naproxen, ibuprofen or aspirin. Stress or excess stomach acid were once thought to be the causes of ulcers, but doctors now know that this is not the case. It is true, though, that those factors can make an ulcer worse or more painful after it has developed.
Symptoms of Ulcers
Ulcers can lead to stomach pain or a feeling of the stomach being bloated, heavy or full. In the case of a gastric ulcer, a person might feel worse while eating or drinking, while a duodenal ulcer may cause pain and symptoms an hour or two after eating or drinking. Vomiting, weight loss or getting full quickly are other possible ulcer symptoms. In certain cases, ulcers can cause additional complications like bleeding, a hole in the stomach called a perforation or an obstruction that prevents food from moving through the stomach. These will cause worsening symptoms and require immediate medical treatment.
Most ulcers heal with time and treatment. If the ulcer is caused by the Helicobacter pylori bacteria, the treatment may involve a combination of antibiotics and a medication to soothe the stomach, like Pepto-Bismol. Other medications can reduce stomach acid levels or neutralize the acid to help relieve the pain and other ulcer symptoms. These medications might include antacids, H2 blockers or proton pump inhibitors. Avoiding smoking, alcohol, spicy foods and over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin and ibuprofen will also help an ulcer heal.
SOURCE: American Academy of Family Physicians
Prescription drugs used to treat gastrointestinal disorders may increase the risk of allergies.