Stomach ulcers are open sores on the inside lining of the stomach. When stomach acid comes in contact with the ulcer, a burning pain that can last from a few minutes to many hours may occur. Once thought to be caused by spicy foods and stress, most stomach ulcers are now known to be caused by a bacterium called Helicobacler pylon (H. pylon). The bacteria inflame the lining of the stomach, causing the ulcer to form. Medication, especially NSAIDs, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can also inflame the lining of the stomach. Nicotine will increase the amount and strength of stomach acid, and alcohol may erode the mucous stomach acid and increase acid produced. The pain from stomach ulcers can sometimes be relieved by eating foods that buffer the stomach. Often the pain will go away and then return. While acid blockers and antacids may give temporary relief, symptoms of a stomach ulcer should be discussed with medical professionals. Internal bleeding and infection from an untreated stomach ulcer could be life threatening. Scar tissue could interfere with the digestive tract.
Because most stomach ulcers are caused by H. pylori bacteria, antibiotics are usually the first form of ulcer treatment. Combination drugs (Helidac and Prevpac) with two antibiotics and an acid suppressor have been designed for this specific infection. Amoxil, Biaxin and Flagyl may also be prescribed.
Histamine (H-2) Blockers
Acid blockers relieve the pain associated with stomach ulcers and encourage healing of the stomach by reducing the amount of hydrochloric acid released. Zantac, Pepcid, Tagamet and Axid are popular acid blockers.
Antacids neutralize stomach acid and may give quick relief for the pain of stomach ulcers. Antacids do nothing to reduce the acid secretion, but they can be taken along with the acid blocker.
Cytoprotective agents help protect the tissue of the stomach lining. Pepto-Bismol is a popular over the counter cytoprotective agent. Carafate and Cytotec are cytoprotective agents that must be prescribed by a doctor.
Proton Pump Inhibitors
Prilosec, Prevacid, Nexium and Aciphex are oral medications that are considered to be proton pump inhibitors. They reduce acid by acting on the acid secreting cells themselves. Proton pump inhibitors can also act on the Helicobacter pylon. High doses of proton pump inhibitors are delivered intravenously in a hospital setting for severe ulcers that bleed. Calcium supplements may be needed at these high dosages.