Ulcers are sores along the lining of the stomach or the first part of the small intestine, called the duodenum. People with ulcers have pain with meals, bloating and abdominal fullness. In severe cases, people can have bloody vomiting that looks like coffee grounds (called hematemesis) or black, tarry stools (called melena). If an ulcer perforates (or causes a tear in the stomach wall), it is a life threatening situation requiring emergent hospitalization and surgery.
Patients with gastric ulcers (ulcers in the stomach lining) develop pain after eating, while those with duodenal ulcers have pain which is relieved with food.
The two most common causes of ulcers are medications and common bacteria. In rare cases, cancerous tumors in the stomach or pancreas can cause ulcers.
Various medications also break down the lining of the stomach and cause ulcers. People who are taking aspirin, NAIDS (like ibuprofen), blood thinners (like Plavix), or even long term steroids can develop ulcers or find that their ulcers are exacerbated.
Diagnosis and treatment for ulcers at NYPBMH
At NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, multiple modalities are used to diagnose and treat ulcers. After an examination and evaluation, a gastroenterologist may perform an esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) to look for ulcers and may perform a biopsy to find out whether bacteria is the cause.
Medications to reduce the amount of acid secreted are used for treatment if there is no bacterial infection. If the bacteria (H. pylori) is present, then a combination of antibiotics and medications to reduce acid are given.