Ulcers are sores that develop in the lining of the digestive tract. They can develop in various places within the gastrointestinal system including the stomach and intestines, and some people can develop multiple ulcers at once. Worried you might be dealing with an ulcer? Here’s what you should know and how a gastroenterologist can help you.
Types of Peptic Ulcers
While there are ulcers that can develop in the veins, mouth, and even genitals, we’re going to talk about digestive ulcers or peptic ulcers. Peptic ulcers are open sores that develop in the lining of the small intestines, but can also develop in the stomach or esophagus.
There are three main kinds of peptic ulcers:
- Gastric ulcers that occur within the lining of the stomach
- Esophageal ulcers that occur within the esophagus
- Duodenal ulcers that occur within the small intestines
The Warning Signs
Want to know whether your digestive issues could be due to an intestinal ulcer? The most common symptom of a GI ulcer is burning or gnawing pain in the stomach. Other symptoms include:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Chest pain
- Feeling full easily
Your symptoms may vary depending on the type of ulcer you have. For example, people with ulcers in the small intestines may feel worse on an empty stomach (the pain may wake you up in the middle of the night). If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it’s a good idea to see a gastroenterologist for an evaluation. Since these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions including GERD, it’s always best to turn to a GI specialist.
Causes of Peptic Ulcers
Ulcers often form when there is damage to the lining of the GI tract. This may result from taking certain medication such as NSAIDs or a bacterial infection (H. pylori). If you are someone who takes painkillers regularly this is something to discuss with your gastroenterologist.
Treating Peptic Ulcers
In most cases, your gastroenterologist will prescribe medication that reduces how much acid the stomach produces, giving the stomach lining enough time to properly heal. Common medications include proton pump inhibitors and h2-receptor antagonists. If a bacterial infection is the culprit, then antibiotics will be prescribed to kill the infection.
Do you suspect that you might have an ulcer? If so, the only way to get a proper diagnosis is to see a gastroenterologist who can perform the appropriate testing to figure out what’s going on and to provide you with the treatment you need.