Sometimes stomach ulcers will heal on their own without treatment, but ulcers that have not been fully treated tend to come back. People who have peptic ulcer disease will require treatment to relieve symptoms and prevent complications.
13 Stomach Ulcer Treatments
Most stomach ulcers can be healed with medications. The choice of medication depends on the cause.
- Medications to treat stomach ulcers caused by H. pylori
- Medications to treat stomach ulcers not due to H. pylori include:
Other treatments to help heal stomach ulcers include:
What Are Symptoms of a Stomach Ulcer?
A stomach ulcer may not always cause symptoms (called “silent ulcers”). When symptoms of a stomach ulcer occur, they may include:
- Stomach pain
- Upper abdominal pain or discomfort (may feel like burning or hunger)
- Feeling full quickly when eating
- Feeling bloated after eating
- Heartburn or acid reflux
- Vomiting (blood in the vomit in severe cases)
- Black or tar-like stools, which indicates the presence of blood in the stools
What Causes a Stomach Ulcer?
Stomach ulcers form when acid erodes the lining of the stomach, which may occur when there is excess acid in the system or when the protective layer of mucus on the lining is broken down.
The two main causes of stomach ulcers are bacterial infection and the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve).
- Bacterial infection
- Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is bacteria that lives in the stomach
- About half of all people have H. pylori in their stomach
- Most people who have the bacteria do not develop ulcers, but some do
- H. pylori bacteria contributes to the formation of stomach ulcers because it can cause:
- Increased acid in the stomach and small intestine
- Inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract
- A breakdown of the protective mucus layer
- NSAID use
- These medicines are used to relieve pain and reduce inflammation
- Many people may take a daily low-dose aspirin to prevent heart attack or stroke
- The type of NSAID, the dose, and how long it’s used are factors in whether an ulcer may form
- NSAIDs can cause changes in the protective mucus layer of the digestive tract which may lead to ulcers
Risk factors for developing stomach ulcers include:
- Other family members having ulcers due to H. pylori
- Alcohol abuse (may interfere with ulcer healing)
- Psychological factors (such as stress, anxiety, and depression) may contribute to the development of ulcers and can interfere with healing and increase the risk of recurrence.
There is no good evidence that certain foods and beverages can cause or worsen ulcers.
How Is a Stomach Ulcer Diagnosed?
A stomach ulcer is diagnosed with a patient history and a physical examination. Tests used to diagnose a stomach ulcer may include:
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