A peptic ulcer is a sore or hole in the lining of the stomach or
duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). Anyone of any age can
develop an ulcer. Women and men are affected equally. Over 25 million
Americans will develop an ulcer in their lifetime.
The most common symptom of an ulcer is a burning pain in the stomach.
The pain can occur at any time, but most often when the stomach is
empty, between meals, and in the early morning hours. It may last from
minutes to hours and may feel better by eating food or taking antacids.
Less common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite. An
ulcer that bleeds can lead to anemia, weakness and fatigue. If bleeding
is heavy, blood may show in vomit or bowel movements, which will appear
dark red or black.
Most ulcers are caused by an infection, not spicy foods, acid or
stress. People with ulcers should be tested by their doctor for the
bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), which is found in the
mucus layer or lining of the stomach. H. pylori causes nine out
of ten ulcers. It is not clear how
H. pylori is transmitted, but most likely through contact with
infected stool or vomit.
It is important that an ulcer and H. pylori are diagnosed and
treated properly. Antibiotic treatment is now used to cure ulcers for
most people. It is rare for an ulcer to return after proper therapy is
completed. Recent studies have shown a link between long-term infection
with H. pylori and the development of stomach cancer.
For more information about ulcers and H. pylori, call the
Genesee County Health Department at (810) 257-3612.