Peptic ulcers are open wounds found in the stomach (stomach ulcers) or in the upper part of the small intestine, also known as the duodenum (duodenal ulcers). A peptic ulcer can cause many symptoms such as pain, discomfort, or gas, although many people do not experience any symptoms.
A peptic ulcer can get worse, bleed, and cause a perforation (hole) or blockage (blockage) of the digestive system – all serious emergencies. This is why you should see your doctor if you notice any related symptoms.
Pain is the most common symptom of a peptic ulcer . It is usually located in the upper abdomen, from the breastbone to the navel, but it can also be felt in the back. Your pain may be dull, burning, or stabbing; less often it is sharp or stabbing. The pain is usually worse at night or in the morning, but it can vary. The duration of pain can range from a few minutes to several hours .
Many people with peptic ulcer disease especially complain of pain on an empty stomach. You may feel relief immediately after eating, but the pain will return or get worse within an hour. However, this short-term delay does not cause people with ulcers to overeat, as nausea and frequent discomfort can suppress their appetite or desire to eat. Some people find that certain foods (such as fatty foods) make symptoms worse, while other foods relieve or do not affect them.
Although pain is the most common symptom, keep in mind that more than half of people with peptic ulcer disease have no symptoms.
Other common symptoms of peptic ulcer include :
- Malaise, swelling
- Indigestion, heartburn
- Chronic nausea or discomfort when eating.
- Frequent belching
- Loss of appetite
Signs can include unexplained anemia or iron deficiency.
These symptoms are rare, but they are more serious and may indicate a complication:
- Vomiting (with or without blood)
- Blood in the stool black, tarry stools
- Tiredness or weakness that may result from malnutrition or anemia due to light bleeding from the ulcer
- Unexplained weight loss
Peptic ulcer symptoms can be the result of other conditions, including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), chronic dyspepsia, gallbladder disease , liver disease, or gastrointestinal infection. It is important to consult your doctor to determine the root cause of your pain.
There are a number of complications that can arise if you have a chronic or worsening peptic ulcer. This includes:
- Bleeding: Bleeding is the most common complication of peptic ulcer. Slow, unnoticeable bleeding can often go unnoticed and can only be detected after you develop anemia due to this constant little blood loss. Black or tarry stools are a sign of this bleeding. But an ulcer can destroy a blood vessel and cause sudden and even massive blood loss, which becomes life threatening .
- Malnutrition: You may be deficient in vitamins and minerals due to low food intake. Immunodeficiencies, weak bones, and fragile skin can be the result of malnutrition, but may not be noticed at first. However, in today's world, malnutrition is not a common complication of peptic ulcer .
- Perforation : Over time, the ulcer may disappear into the lining of the stomach or small intestine, causing a perforation (hole) that can leak gastrointestinal fluid into the body. This can cause severe abdominal pain and shock . It is a medical emergency that is often surgical .
- Obstruction: The ulcer can become inflamed, blocking the passage of digested food and causing severe dysfunction of the small intestine. Like piercing, it is a medical emergency .
- Fistula: A perforated ulcer can form a junction (fistula) with an adjacent abdominal organ or structure, including the colon, biliary tree, pancreas, or a large blood vessel. This leads to the exchange of materials and fluids, which can lead to vomiting of these materials or bleeding. This is a medical emergency that requires surgical correction .
People are prone to peptic ulcers due to infection by the Helicobacter pylori bacteria, but there are some habits that can contribute to its development, such as taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or smoking. These habits interfere with the natural production of mucus, which lines your digestive system to protect it from heartburn, abrasion, and bleeding.
Despite common misconceptions, one of the non -ulcer lifestyle factors is stress. Before the discovery of Helicobacter pylori , medical professionals referred to ulcers as stress.
When to contact a healthcare provider / visit a hospital
You may find relief from antacids, but peptic ulcer symptoms should not be ignored. If symptoms persist for more than a week, it is best to consult a doctor. He or she will determine if you need prescription medications and if you have complications such as bleeding or anemia.
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have:
- Pain radiating to the back.
- Pain that does not go away when you take medicine.
- Involuntary weight loss
- Weakness, fatigue
- Threw up
- Difficulty to swallow
Call or see your doctor right away if you have any of the following serious symptoms:
- Vomiting blood
- Black or tarry stools
- Sudden severe abdominal pain
- Chills, shaking
- Loss of consciousness
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Peptic ulcer disease does not go away on its own. Make sure to see your doctor every time you notice symptoms. While it may take time for such an ulcer to heal, finding H. pylori as the cause makes it curable, not something you simply have to learn to live with.
Frequently asked questions
Symptoms may include vomiting blood, similar to coffee grounds, and stools that look black and tarry. You may also have anemia due to bleeding, which can lead to weakness or fainting. Seek emergency help if you have symptoms of a bleeding ulcer.
The pain can last for minutes or hours. Symptoms will return until ulcer treatment begins. When the ulcer is treated, it may take about eight weeks to heal, but the pain usually goes away after a few days.