What to Do With a Bleeding Stomach Ulcer?

An endoscopy is a tool used to diagnose and treat peptic ulcers.
An endoscopy is a tool used to diagnose and treat peptic ulcers.

A bleeding stomach ulcer is a serious condition that necessitates prompt and proper treatment. Treatment options vary according to various factors.

Treatment is Vital

Peptic ulcers are open sores that develop on the inner stomach lining, upper small intestine and esophagus. They cause abdominal pain and, in some cases, bleeding. They often result from H. pylori, a bacteria that can disrupt the mucous layer of the stomach lining and cause inflammation, as well as other bacterial infections and some medications. Approximately 10 percent of Americans deal with a peptic ulcer at some point.

If you have a bleeding ulcer, visit a doctor immediately for diagnosis and treatment. Bleeding ulcers are a serious condition. Blood loss can lead to anemia and, in severe cases, the need for a blood transfusion. When left untreated, they can cause you to lose consciousness from blood loss and, in some cases, die. Your doctor likely will recommend a visit with a gastroenterologist.

Drug Treatment

If you have a peptic ulcer, you must avoid certain pain relievers. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen can irritate or inflame the stomach lining and worsen your condition. Smoking also contributes to worsening stomach ulcers by introducing greater volume and concentration of stomach acids that can slow healing during ulcer treatment. Alcohol and stress, too, can irritate the stomach lining and delay healing.

Doctors prescribe medication for some bleeding ulcers. Over-the-counter antacids and acid blockers relieve the gnawing pain of peptic ulcers, but relief is only temporary. More likely, your doctor will suggest proton pump inhibitors, a type of anti-acid drug that has proven useful in treating bleeding ulcers. These drugs stop your body from pumping acid into cells. Prevacid and Prilosec are common proton pump inhibitors. In one study, researchers found that proton pump inhibitors reduced the risk of further bleeding and the need for surgery. The study, though, also noted that the number of individuals who died from their ulcer conditions did not decline with the use of proton pump inhibitors. In some cases, proton pump inhibitors are administered after doctors have taken other steps to stop the bleeding. In these scenarios, the drugs ensure that bleeding does not redevelop.

Doctors also administer antibiotic medications when H. pylori bacteria are present. Common antibiotic medications include amoxicillin, and clarithromycin.

Medical Procedures

Doctors often prescribe medical treatment for ulcers. The most common and most effective treatment for bleeding ulcers is a procedure known as an endoscopy. A doctor can identify bleeding blood vessels and repair them during an endoscopy. An instrument called an endoscope has a small heating device at the end that is used to seal small wounds. It is effective in controlling bleeding in 90 percent of patients. Endoscopy patients often remain hospitalized for several days after treatment. If bleeding reoccurs, doctors often repeat the endoscopy. Repeat procedures are generally effective in controlling bleeding in approximately 70 percent of cases. If endoscopy treatment does not work, abdominal surgery is sometimes necessary to stitch closed the peptic ulcer.

According to a 2009 study that appeared in the journal Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, elderly patients who underwent endoscopy within a day of peptic ulcer symptoms had a hospital stay two days shorter than other peptic ulcer patients and were less likely to need gastrointestinal surgery.

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