So you have been experiencing upper abdominal pains that leads you to believe you may have an ulcer, but how do you know if you have a duodenal ulcer? A duodenal ulcer is a type of peptic ulcer that occurs in the upper portion of of the small intestine (duodenum), and can be caused by factors such as smoking, excessive drinking, stress, regular use of pain relievers, or, most commonly, a gastrointestinal infection known as H. pylori. Peptic ulcers are so common that as many as ten percent of Americans will have one during their lives.
To know if you have a duodenal ulcer, you will need:
- Over-the-counter acid-reducing medication
- The most common way to know if you have a duodenal ulcer is a pain that is often described as burning or gnawing. This pain may last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, be worse when your stomach is empty and at night, be temporarily relieved by eating or taking antacids, and may disappear and then return. Because duodenal ulcers are often relieved by food, people who have them tend to eat more and gain weight.
- Less common ways to know if you have a duodenal ulcer is vomiting blood or having bloody and/or tarry stools. While uncommon, these symptoms are severe and warrant emergency medical intervention.
- Treat duodenal ulcers with acid-reducing drugs, such as antacids, H2 receptor blockers, or proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs). If the duodenal ulcer is caused by the H. pylori bacteria, antibiotics are often prescribed to kill the organism. Surgery is not typically used to treat duodenal ulcers, unless there is a complication, such as a gastrointestinal hemorrhage, perforation, or gastric outlet obstruction. Surgery for duodenal ulcers is usually done one of three ways: vagotomy (cutting of the vagus nerve), vagotomy with antrectomy (removal of the narrow portion of the stomach leading to the duodenum), or subtotal gastrectomy (removal of a portion of the stomach).