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Peptic Ulcer Disease (cont.)

Treatment Overview

Left untreated, many ulcers eventually heal. But ulcers often recur if the cause of the ulcer is not eliminated or treated. If ulcers keep coming back, you have an increased risk of developing a serious complication, such as bleeding or a hole in the wall of your stomach or intestine.

Most of the time, treatment means taking medicines—such as H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)—and making lifestyle changes, including:

  • Not taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), if possible. These include aspirin, ibuprofen (such as Advil), and naproxen (such as Aleve).
  • Quitting smoking.
  • Not drinking too much alcohol (no more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women).

H. pylori infection

If your ulcer is caused by Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria, treatment usually involves a combination of medicines, including antibiotics.

If treatment isn't working, you may need more tests to look for bacteria. If you still have an H. pylori infection, your doctor will likely try a different combination of medicines. He or she may also suggest that you see a gastroenterologist. This specialist will do an endoscopy to look at your ulcer and to take a tissue sample (biopsy).

Treatment if ulcers get worse

If you have serious complications from a peptic ulcer, such as bleeding or obstruction, you may need an endoscopy, even if you have already had one.

If your stomach or intestine has a perforation or your ulcer continues to bleed despite treatment, you may need surgery. But surgery is rarely used to treat an ulcer.

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