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Gastroenterology Blog

Peptic Ulcers: Types & Causes

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Wed, Dec 19, 2018 @ 3:51 PM

peptic ulcers baton rougePeptic ulcers are sores in the esophagus, stomach, or the first part of the small intestine. Since the lining of these areas exists to protect the underlying tissues from stomach, the symptoms of a peptic ulcer can be unpleasant, and the long-term implications can be serious if the condition is untreated.

Types of Peptic Ulcers 

Ulcers are classified based on their location. The three main types of ulcers are:

  • Esophageal ulcer - Occurs in the esophagus, the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach
  • Gastric ulcer - An ulcer in the stomach itself
  • Duodenal ulcer - Occurs in the duodenum, which is the first part of the small intestine

Causes of Peptic Ulcers

The digestive tract is normally protected by digestive chemicals like stomach acid by a layer of protective mucous. If the amount of mucous decreases, or the amount of acid increases, then an ulcer might occur.

There are a lot of myths about the causes of peptic ulcers. For example, many people believe that spicy foods or stress can cause peptic ulcers; this is a myth. The two most common causes of peptic ulcers are bacterial infection and medications. Infection by the microorganism H. pylori can cause ulcers. Another culprit is taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen sodium for an extended period of time. Less commonly, a gastrinoma, or a tumor of the acid-secreting cells in the stomach, can cause peptic ulcers.

There are a couple of lifestyle factors that can increase a person's risk of developing a peptic ulcer. Smoking and frequent alcohol consumption are both associated with a higher risk.

Symptoms of Peptic Ulcers

Pain is the single most common symptom of a peptic ulcer, and it's easy to see why. The ulcer itself, as a form of damage to the tissue, causes pain. It then comes into contact with acid from the stomach, which exacerbates the pain. More specifically, symptoms can include:

  • Burning pain in the stomach, that gets worse between meals, at night, or when the stomach is empty
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Appetite changes
  • Weight loss

Antacids and certain foods may provide temporary relief, but the symptoms will keep coming back if there is a peptic ulcer. If you have persistent pain, concerning symptoms, or severe symptoms such as vomiting blood, you should make an appointment with your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

Treatment of Peptic Ulcers

Untreated peptic ulcers can cause serious problems, including infection, a hole in the stomach, scar tissue that blocks the passage of food through the digestive system, and internal bleeding. Therefore, it's important for patients with peptic ulcers to get effective treatment as soon as they recognize that there is a problem.

Potential treatments for a peptic ulcer include:

  • Eliminating potential causes such as smoking, alcohol use, and NSAIDs
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), a class of medications that lower acid production so that the ulcer can heal. Examples include Prilosec and Protonix.
  • Antibiotics may be used if the ulcer is caused by bacteria.
  • Endoscopy may be used to treat certain ulcers.
  • Surgery may be used in severe cases, such as when there is internal bleeding or a hole in the stomach

If you have symptoms of a peptic ulcer, it's important to get treatment and diagnosis, both to alleviate symptoms and to prevent the condition from worsening. To schedule a consultation today, please contact one of the doctors at Gastroenterology Associates at (225) 927-1190.

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Topics: Stomach Ulcers

H Pylori: The Surprise Cause of Most Ulcers

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Tue, Dec 29, 2015 @ 1:03 PM

H_Pylori_causes_ulcersHelicobacter pylori, also known as H. pylori, is a bacteria that can cause stomach ulcers. H. pylori infects roughly two-thirds of people worldwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although it doesn’t always cause ulcers. Most people who have this bacteria never experience any symptoms of it. As sanitation improves, cases of H. pylori infections are decreasing. Many cases are treatable, but serious cases can lead to stomach cancer.   

History of H. Pylori

H pylori was not discovered until 1982. Before that time, stress, stomach acid, and spicy foods were considered to be the main causes of stomach ulcers. Those with ulcers were treated with medications that relieved symptoms but did not cure infections, which led to recurring ulcers. After H. pylori was discovered, medical professionals began focusing on getting rid of infections with antibiotics. Researchers also understood more about how this bacteria causes stomach ulcers.

How H. Pylori Causes Ulcers

H pylori enters the body when people consume contaminated food or water or eat with contaminated utensils. The bacteria also spreads through contact with body fluids from those with an H. pylori infection. Many infections occur in areas that do not have adequate sewage systems or clean sources of water.

When the bacteria gets into the body, it damages the stomach lining. This allows digestive stomach acids to get past the lining, resulting in sores, or ulcers. When ulcers form, they can cause a burning sensation in the stomach, as well as bloating, vomiting, appetite loss and unexplained weight loss. Although in some cases, this bacteria can lead to stomach cancer, it is important to note that there are other causes for stomach cancer and not all patients with H. pylori infection go on to develop stomach cancer. While more than half of people worldwide have H. pylori present in their body, the bacteria doesn’t cause ulcers in everyone. For some people, symptoms do not appear until years after the initial infection.

Treatments for H. Pylori

Doctors typically treat H. pylori infections with medications that destroy the bacteria and help the stomach lining recover. These medications include the following:

  • Antibiotics: Amoxicillin, tetracycline and other antibiotics get rid of H. pylori.
  • Acid-reducing medication: Omeprazole, esomeprazole and other medications help reduce the amount of acid produced in the stomach, which allows the lining to heal properly. Other medications, such as famotidine, also lower the amount of stomach acid by blocking chemicals that produce it.
  • Bismuth subsalicylate: This medication protects ulcers from stomach acid as they heal. 

 Those with ulcers from H. pylori should also avoid spicy foods, smoking and other factors that can make these sores worse until they’re fully healed. Once an infection clears up, which can take up to two weeks, patients sometimes undergo testing to make sure that H. pylori is gone. 

An important note about testing for H. pylori is that the blood test is usually only valid initially and once. This is not an effective way to see if the infection has cleared after treatment, as the antibody against H. pylori tends to remain in the body for a long time, even after the infection has cleared. Appropriate tests should be done by your doctor, with certain precautions so the test is accurate, not giving false positive or false negative results.

 Preventing H. Pylori Infections

Although H. pylori usually doesn’t cause ulcers in those with an infection, it is still associated with some ulcers and sometimes an increased risk of stomach cancer. In order to lower the risk of an infection, people should do the following:

  • Why_washing_hands_is_important.jpgWash hands: Hand washing is one of the most effective ways to prevent an H. pylori infection, especially before eating and after using a restroom.
  • Avoid contaminated food: Eating foods that have been properly prepared and cooked thoroughly can help prevent infections. 
  • Drink clean water. Drinking water from a clean source, such as filtered water, and avoiding swallowing water in ponds, lakes and other unsafe sources, helps lower the risk of infection. 

 If you’ve been dealing with discomfort caused by ulcers, please contact Gastroenterology Associatesthe largest group of digestive health experts (gastroenterologists) in the Baton Rouge area. Our team of 17 board-certified gastroenterologists can help treat your condition.

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Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the consultative advice and experienced feedback from your physician.    Always consult with your physicians on any of your questions and concerns.


Topics: Gastritis, Stomach Ulcers

It's Crohn's and Colitis Awareness Week!

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Fri, Dec 06, 2013 @ 12:19 PM

Crohns and colitis awareness weekOn November 14, 2011, the U.S. Senate passed Senate Resolution 199 (SR 199): “A resolution supporting the goals and ideals of Crohn's and Colitis Awareness Week, December 1-7.” 

This Senate bill recognizes the individuals living with Crohn's and Colitis as well as the family,  friends, and medical professionals who help to care for people living with Crohn's and Colitis, the two diseases that constitute Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).

Gastroenterology Associates encourages everyone to join in the movement to increase awareness of and cures for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).  With over 1.4 million Americans dealing with Crohn's and colitis, the need for continued and increased support of research on these two conditions is on the forefront.  

Help raise awareness by doing these fast, easy things:

  • Reach out to anyone you know with IBD and let them know you care
Gastroenterology Associates are a group of physicians specializing in the study and treatment of the gastroenterological system.  Crohn's and colitis are conditions affecting the digestive system and they are treated by gastroenterologists. Should you or someone you know be suffering from symptoms that may be Chron's or colitis, please don't hesitate to make an appointment for evaluation.  Some of the symptoms of Crohn's and colitis can mimic the symptoms of more serious conditions.
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Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the consultative advice and experienced feedback from your physician.    Always consult with your physicians on any of your questions and concerns.

Topics: Stomach Ulcers, Crohn's Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome

What’s the Difference Between Ulcerative Colitis & Crohn’s Disease?

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Fri, Sep 27, 2013 @ 9:37 AM

difference between ulcerative colitis and crohn's diseaseUlcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are both forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), in which the lining of the digestive tract can become inflamed. The two diseases can cause similar symptoms like pain, diarrhea, and malnutrition. However, they vary in terms of which parts of the digestive tract they may affect, as well as how deeply into the tissues they can go. Both can have a dramatic effect on well-being and health, but both can be managed using medical therapies and lifestyle changes.

About Crohn's Disease

Crohn's disease is characterized by inflammation of the tissue in the digestive tract. The condition can affect any part of the digestive tract, and can penetrate deep into the tissues, although the last part of the small intestine and the large intestine are the most likely to be affected. It can affect several separate sections of intestine. Depending on the location and severity of the condition, it may cause symptoms like:

  • Diarrhea
  • Pain and cramping in the abdomen
  • Blood in the stool
  • Ulcers
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sores in the mouth
  • Arthritis
  • Fatigue
  • Inflammation of the eyes
  • Skin issues
  • Fever

In some cases, this condition can be debilitating and even life-threatening. Severe, untreated cases can lead to a number of serious bowel issues, ranging from bowel obstruction to fistulas to anal fissures to colon cancer.

About Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis also causes inflammation of the bowels, but it only affects the innermost lining of  the large intestine in continuous stretches, whereas Crohn's may affect deeper tissue layers and may occur in either the small or large intestines. The symptoms can vary considerably based on where the condition occurs and how severe the inflammation is. Common symptoms include:

  • Rectal bleeding or blood with stool
  • Diarrhea, including bloody diarrhea
  • Weight loss 
  • Fever
  • Cramping

In rare cases, ulcerative colitis can affect the entire colon, causing severe pain and life-threatening dehydration.  In addition, severe and untreated cases of ulcerative colitis can lead to issues like bowel perforation, severe dehydration, or osteoporosis. It also increases the risk of colon cancer.

Diagnosis and Treatment Inflammatory Bowel Disease  Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis

If you experience a change in bowel habits, or start to exhibit symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, it's important to make an appointment with your physician, who will diagnose the exact problem and develop a treatment plan.

Although there are sometimes clear differences between the symptoms of ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, other symptoms, like pain and diarrhea, are common to both conditions. For that reason, your doctor will perform diagnostic testing to determine the cause of your symptoms.

The treatments for both conditions are quite similar and may include:

The right course of treatment will depend on the severity of your symptoms, how much the disease has damaged your bowels, and how you have responded to past treatments. Your doctor will work with you to find a treatment that is effective and fits with your goals and lifestyle.

To learn more about diagnosis and treatment for your bowel issues, please contact one of the doctors at Gastroenterology Associates at (225) 927-1190.

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Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the consultative advice and experienced feedback from your physician.    Always consult with your physicians on any of your questions and concerns.

Topics: Stomach Ulcers, Crohn's Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome