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What Is Peptic Ulcer Disease?

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How Are Ulcers Diagnosed?

Your doctor may be able to determine if you have an ulcer just by talking with you about your symptoms. However, to confirm the diagnosis one of several tests should be taken. First, your doctor may ask you to take an acid-blocking medication, such as those used to treat heartburn, for a short period of time to see if symptoms improve.

If needed, your doctor may recommend a procedure called an upper endoscopy. It involves inserting a small, lighted tube (endoscope) through the throat and into the stomach to look for abnormalities. This procedure is usually given if you are having severe symptoms of ulcers.

Doctors will frequently treat for ulcers without confirming the diagnosis using endoscopy. If the cause is not likely to be from NSAIDs, then it is very likely to be from H. pylori. Many doctors will now test for and treat H. pylori, in addition to giving medications to reduce the symptoms.

How Are Ulcers Treated?

If not properly treated, ulcers can lead to serious health problems. There are several ways in which ulcers can be treated, including making changes to ones lifestyle, limiting dairy, taking medication, and/or undergoing surgery.

Lifestyle Changes to Treat an Ulcer

To treat an ulcer, first eliminate substances that can be causing the ulcers. If you smoke or drink alcohol, stop. If the ulcer is believed to be caused by the use of NSAIDs, they need to be stopped.

Ulcer Medications

Ulcer medications can include:

  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPI). Proton pump medications reduce acid levels and allow the ulcer to heal. They include Prilosec, Prevacid, Aciphex, Protonix, Zegerid, Dexilant, and Nexium.
  • Antibiotics. If you have H. pylori infection, then antibiotics are used. There are multiple combinations of antibiotics that are taken for one to two weeks along with a PPI. Pepto-Bismol is also part of some treatment regimens.
  • Upper endoscopy . Some bleeding ulcers can be treated through an endoscope.
  • Surgery. Sometimes an operation is needed if the ulcer has created a hole in the wall of the stomach or if there is serious bleeding that can't be controlled with an endoscope.

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