At GI DOC JHB, we work one-on-one with each patient to help them find the right type of treatment for their individual needs.
For example, when a patient comes in with stomach ulcers, we provide the patient with a consistent, compassionate, personalized approach and care that acknowledges and understands both the physical and emotional impact this medical condition can have on people.
Dr Schneider operates with a flexible schedule, including immediate appointments for some services and direct access scheduling of screening colonoscopies for appropriate patients.
What are Stomach Ulcers?
Stomach ulcers are open sores in the lining of the stomach. Stomach ulcers occur when the thick layer of mucus that protects your stomach from digestive juices is reduced.
This allows the digestive acids to eat away at the tissues that line the stomach, causing an ulcer.
Stomach ulcers are a type of peptic ulcer disease. Peptic ulcers are any ulcers that affect both the stomach and small intestines.
In this article, the term stomach ulcer will be used, although the information applies equally to peptic ulcers.
Symptoms of Stomach Ulcers
A number of symptoms are associated with stomach ulcers. The gravity of the symptoms depend on the severity of the ulcer.
The most common symptom is a burning sensation or pain felt in the stomach. Typically, the pain will be more intense when your stomach is empty.
For some people, it might last a few minutes or hours, but for others, it can last for several days or weeks.
Other common signs and symptoms of ulcers include:
- indigestion (heartburn)
- weight loss
- not wanting to eat because of pain
- nausea or vomiting
- feeling full and bloated
- burping or acid reflux
- stomach feels sensitive to fatty foods
- anaemia, whose symptoms can include tiredness, shortness of breath, or paler skin
- dark stools
- vomiting blood
Talk to a gastroenterologist if you have any symptoms of stomach ulcer. Even though discomfort may be mild, ulcers can worsen if they aren’t treated.
Who is More Likely to Get Ulcers?
You may be more likely to develop an ulcer if you:
- Are infected with the H. pylori bacterium (bacterial infection is the primary cause of peptic ulcers.)
- Take NSAIDs (such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen)
- Have a family history of ulcers
- Heavy alcohol use
- Psychological stress
When Should You See a Gastroenterologist?
If you think you have a stomach ulcer, call your gastroenterologist. Together you can discuss your symptoms and treatment options.
Seek urgent medical advice if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- vomiting blood
- passing dark stools
- trouble breathing
- a sudden, sharp pain in your tummy that doesn’t go away
These could be a sign of a serious complication, such as internal bleeding.
Treatment for Stomach Ulcers
If you suspect you have or are diagnosed with a stomach ulcer, your treatment will largely depend on the causes of the ulcer.
With correct treatment, most ulcers heal in a few months. For example, If your stomach ulcer is caused by a bacterial infection, a course of antibiotics and a medication called a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) is recommended.
Common treatment options can include home remedies or more progressive forms of treatment, like surgery. Here is a list of treatment and prevention remedies:
- Over the counter medication – including antibiotics, to destroy the bacteria, and drugs to help speed the healing process
- Consider switching pain relievers. If you use pain relievers regularly, ask your doctor whether there might be a better alternative for you such as Tylenol
- Limit or avoid alcohol completely. Excessive use of alcohol can cause inflammation and bleeding.
- Controlling your stress levels. Stress may worsen the signs and symptoms of a peptic ulcer. Consider the sources of your stress and do what you can to manage or reduce the causes.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking may interfere with the protective lining of the stomach, making your stomach more prone to the development of an ulcer. Smoking also increases the acid build up in your stomach.
- Try to get enough sleep. Sleep can help your immune system heal, and therefore counter stress. Also, avoid eating four hours before bedtime.
- Limit or avoid caffeine
- reducing acid – tablets are available to reduce the acid content in the gastric juices
- lifestyle modifications – joining a gym, sports team or participating in other forms of physical exercise.
In more serious cases, surgery may be required.
Surgery can include:
- removing the ulcer
- tying off bleeding blood vessels
- sewing tissue from another site onto the ulcer
- cutting the nerve that controls stomach acid production
Follow-Up After Initial Treatment
Treatment for peptic ulcers is often successful if all popular treatment options have been explored, leading to ulcer healing.
However, if your symptoms are rare or more severe or if they continue despite different treatment options, your gastroenterologist may recommend endoscopy to rule out other possible causes for your symptoms.
We recommend asking your doctor whether you should undergo follow-up tests after your treatment.
If an ulcer is detected during endoscopy, your gastroenterologist may recommend another endoscopy after your treatment to make sure your ulcer has fully healed.