Stomach and Small Intestine Ulcers

Peptic ulcers are open sores in the upper digestive tract. They can appear in the stomach lining (gastric ulcers) or the lining of the upper small intestine (duodenal ulcers). Typically, a thick layer of mucus protects the lining of the intestine and stomach. Peptic ulcers can form when stomach acid breaks down the layer of mucus.

The cause of peptic ulcer disease includes:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug use (such as aspirin and ibuprofen)
  • Bacterial infection
  • Smoking

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Peptic ulcers can cause symptoms that range from annoying to severe. Symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloody stools
  • Heartburn
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting blood

Peptic ulcers are usually first diagnosed based on symptoms. Other tests that may be performed include:

  • Upper endoscopy - using a lighted, flexible tube to examine your esophagus, stomach and small intestine.
  • Biopsy - a tissue sample is taken from the stomach lining and tested for an Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection, a type of bacteria that is a common cause of ulcers.
  • Urea breath test - examines whether your breath can detect the presence of H. pylori bacteria in the stomach by measuring carbon dioxide production from urea.
  • Stool test - a small sample of your stool is collected and sent to a lab. In 2 or 3 days, the test will show if you have H. pylori.

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Why Choose Penn State Health for Care

Recognized Leaders in Treating Peptic Ulcer Disease

Penn State Health is a tertiary care center for treatment of peptic ulcer disease and serves as a referral center in central Pennsylvania. We’re experienced in treating the most complex and cases of peptic ulcer disease and associated complications.

A Comprehensive, Multidisciplinary Team Approach

Our peptic ulcer disease specialists offer more than just a diagnosis for your peptic ulcers. We are a compassionate team of physicians with decades of experience. Our medical and surgical specialists work together to offer you both surgical and nonsurgical solutions to heal your ulcer and prevent a relapse.

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