Published October 24, 2023
How serious is a peptic ulcer? A peptic ulcer can become very serious if not diagnosed and treated. An open sore in your stomach sounds pretty serious all by itself—but the point is not to ignore any symptoms, see your doctor, and then follow all the instructions for treatment to avoid complications from a peptic ulcer.
Ulcers Are Not a Joke
We may kid about our boss, our job, or our family giving us an ulcer, but it’s not really all that funny. A peptic ulcer is an open sore that forms in your stomach or the first part of your small intestine, the duodenum. Your stomach breaks down and digests the food we eat through the powerful acids and other enzymes in our stomach. Our stomach and duodenum have a special lining to protect them, but if the lining breaks down, acid will eat away at the lining. The result is a hole, defect, or perforation in our stomach. A perforation constitutes a medical emergency.
How Do We Develop Peptic Ulcers?
There are some clear causes of stomach ulcers. The most important is a bacteria known as H.pylori. We all have this in our gut, but not everyone is affected by it and develops an ulcer.
Other risk factors include:
- Using NSAIDS too frequently. This includes all pain relievers like aspirin and all anti-inflammatory over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen. (Tylenol is a safer choice for pain.)
- Smoking and chewing tobacco
- Consuming alcohol in excess
- Ill and on a breathing machine
- Radiation treatments
Signs and Symptoms of a Peptic Ulcer
Many of these symptoms can mimic other gastro issues. Signs of ulcers include:
- burning stomach pain
- fullness in the stomach
- vomiting (even with blood)
- weight loss
If the pain wakes you up at night, or you have bloody feces, contact GI Solutions immediately. Serious internal bleeding can occur which is life threatening.
Just How Serious Is a Peptic Ulcer?
It can be very serious.
An untreated ulcer can have multiple complications which include:
- Internal bleeding can lead to anemia or a slow bleed.
- A perforation is a hole in your stomach. Consider how dangerous this can be when bacteria enters your body via the perforation and spreads throughout your body called septicemia. This condition, if not treated immediately, becomes sepsis which is life threatening.
- Your ulcer can turn into cancer overtime if not treated.
A healed ulcer can still be dangerous. Scar tissue buildup can obstruct normal digestion into the small intestine causing other issues.
Diagnosis and Treatment for Peptic Ulcers
A gastroenterologist will perform several tests to diagnose ulcers.
Most likely it will begin with an upper endoscopy where pictures and a tissue sample can be taken.
Imaging tests will be performed like an X-ray or CT scan to look for ulcers or a perforation.
If a diagnosis is made, a combination of lifestyle alterations and prescribed medications can help to heal an ulcer. Some patients think they can manage it by themselves by reducing reliance on NSAIDS and decreasing alcohol and smoking, but we don’t recommend that path. Rely on GI Solutions in Chicago to steer you in the right direction so ulcers don’t return.
Categories: Peptic Ulcer