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Understanding Ulcer Treatment

What Are the Treatments for an Ulcer? continued...

The chief goals of treatment are reducing the amount of acid in the stomach, strengthening the protective linings that come in direct contact with gastric acids, and -- if your ulcer is caused by bacterial infection -- treating the H. pylori infection with medication. Your doctor will likely prescribe a combination of antibiotics, such as amoxicillin or tetracycline with metronidazole, along with Pepto-Bismol, proton-pump inhibitors, and/or histamine H2 blockers, all to be taken for 10-14 days.

If these treatments are unsuccessful, or if you have developed serious complications as a result of your ulcer, surgery may be necessary. If your ulcer is hemorrhaging, the surgeon will identify the source of the bleeding (usually a small artery at the base of the ulcer) and repair it. Perforated ulcers -- holes in the entire stomach or duodenal wall -- must be surgically closed. This is an emergency procedure.

In some cases, a surgery to decrease stomach acid secretion may be necessary. However, peptic ulcer surgery is done only in emergency situations, because there are many potential complications associated with the procedure, including ulcer recurrence, liver complications, and ''dumping syndrome,'' which causes chronic abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and/or sweating after eating.

Tips for Living With Ulcers

  • If you have an ulcer, be cautious when choosing over-the-counter pain relievers. Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen may not only irritate the ulcer but also prevent a bleeding ulcer from healing. Avoid powdered headache powders, which are usually powdered aspirin. Your best choice may be acetaminophen (Tylenol, for example), which does not cause or promote stomach ulcers.
  • Don't overdose on iron supplements. Although people with bleeding ulcers can develop anemia and may need to take iron as a treatment, taking too much can irritate the stomach lining and the ulcer. Ask your doctor how much iron you need.
  • Learn how to deal with stress. While there is no evidence that stress causes ulcers, it can exacerbate existing ones. Practicing relaxation techniques -- including deep breathing, guided imagery, and moderate exercise -- can help alleviate stress.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on March 12, 2014
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