How does it happen?
A duodenal ulcer happens when part of the lining of the intestine is eaten away by stomach acid. Normally the lining of the intestine is protected from stomach acid. But sometimes this protection fails. Then you may get an ulcer.
This can happen in many ways:
- Bacteria called H. pylori cause almost all ulcers of this type.
- Some kinds of medicine, like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, can cause these ulcers.
- You are more likely to get an ulcer if you smoke cigarettes.
What are the symptoms?
You may have:
- A pain in the upper abdomen that gnaws or burns.
- A pain that gets better when you eat or take antacids.
- A pain that gets worse a couple of hours after you eat or just before you eat.
- A pain that wakes you up during the night.
If the ulcer bleeds:
- Your vomit may have bright red blood or blood that looks like brown coffee grounds.
- Your bowel movements may be black and tarry.
How do I know I have it?
Your health care provider will:
- Talk to you about your symptoms.
- Ask about your medical history.
- Give you a checkup.
You may have one or more of these tests:
- An x-ray. For this test, you will swallow barium. This liquid lets your health care provider see the ulcer on an x-ray.
- Blood tests to look for bacteria that cause ulcers.
- Tests of your bowel movement to check for blood.
- A blood test for anemia. If you have an ulcer that is bleeding, you may have anemia (not enough red blood cells).
- An endoscopy, which is an exam that lets your health care provider see the ulcer with a thin flexible tube and a tiny camera. The tube is put down through your mouth into your stomach.
- A special test called a biopsy. Your provider takes a piece of tissue from the first part of your intestine for lab tests.
How is it treated?
It is important to get treatment for an ulcer. Treatment will help:
- You have less pain.
- Your ulcer heal.
- Keep your ulcer from causing other problems or coming back.
- Your health care provider may prescribe:
- Stopping medicines like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.
- Antibiotics to treat H. pylori bacteria.
- Medicine to lower the amount of acid your stomach makes.
- Medicine to protect the area around the ulcer.
- You may need to take medicine for quite a while. You may need to make changes in how you eat and how you take care of yourself.
How long will it take to get well?
These ulcers get better with treatment. But they can happen again. Be sure to take your medicine. This will help lower the chances that the ulcer will come back.
If you do not get treated, you may have these problems:
- You may have severe bleeding.
- You may get a hole in the wall of your intestine.
- The ulcer may make scar tissue that stops food from moving from your stomach to your intestine.
If you have these problems:
- You may need to stay at the hospital.
- You may need surgery.
How can I take care of myself and help prevent ulcers?
- Get the medical care you need.
- Take all the medicine prescribed by your health care provider
- Keep your follow-up appointments.
- If you keep having symptoms or you get worse, tell your provider.
There are things you should stay away from if you can:
- Do not smoke cigarettes.
- Don't take aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen. Ask your health care provider if you can use acetaminophen (for example, Tylenol) for pain.
- Eat small meals 4 to 5 times a day instead of 2 or 3 large meals.
- Choose healthy meals.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Exercise as recommended by your health care provider.
- Do not eat or drink things that upset your stomach. Common things include coffee, colas, and alcohol.
Adult Health Advisor 2006.4; Copyright © 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved. Developed by McKesson Provider Technologies. This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.