What is an ulcer, and when should you get help?

What is an ulcer, and when should you get help?

Your stomach can hurt for a lot of different reasons, a feeling a lot of people are familiar with in these times of holiday eating.

But when should you be concerned that the pain or discomfort you’re feeling might be an ulcer?

The most common types of ulcers are found in the stomach and small intestine where there’s a tear in the lining.

Dr. Andrew Albert, Medical director of Digestive Health and gastroenterologist based at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, says they can be caused by stress or anxiety that creates too much gastric acid in your stomach, or frequently they can develop from frequent use of over-the-counter painkillers like aspirin, motrin, or additional non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. In other cases, ulcers can be caused by infections or chronic diseases.

The symptoms you might feel if you have one include:

  • Stomach pain or discomfort
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Cramping
  • Red or black stool

For stomach pain, you probably reach for the antacid at first. But if your symptoms don’t go away after a day or two, it’s time to call your doctor, Albert says. Ulcers can usually be treated and dealt with by a physician.

What you shouldn’t do with any stomach problem is just wait it out, Dr. Albert says.

“For one, any health problem with your stomach or otherwise tends to get worse as time goes on, so it’s best to seek care sooner rather than later,” Dr. Albert said. “For another, you’ll just be worried, unsure of what the issue really is. A doctor can tell you and put your mind at ease or help you deal with whatever is ailing you.”

Now is the perfect time to make an appointment with a primary care physician. Whether you live in Illinois or Wisconsin, it’s easy to find a doctor near you. 

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About the Author

Mike Riopell
Mike Riopell

Mike Riopell, health enews contributor, is a media relations coordinator with Advocate Aurora Health. He previously worked as a reporter and editor covering politics and government for the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald and Bloomington Pantagraph, among others. He enjoys bicycles, home repair, flannel shirts and being outside.