How Serious Is A Bleeding Ulcer?

If you've ever experienced a bleeding ulcer, you're not alone. Roughly four million cases are reported annually in the United States, according to Cleveland Clinic, and up to 10% of Americans will experience an ulcer at least once during their lifetime.

An ulcer refers to a kind of sore that can appear anywhere on the body and that takes a longer time to heal. Ulcers can result from a variety of circumstances, including injury, illness, or infection. They often eventually heal — though ulcers can be an ongoing issue, according to Medical News Today.

A stomach ulcer is a form of what is known as peptic ulcer disease. The treatment for peptic ulcers was revolutionized in 1982 when two Australian scientists discovered that, rather than factors such as stress and the consumption of spicy foods, peptic ulcers were caused by Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria, per

The name peptic ulcer is derived from the digestive acid called pepsin that contributes to peptic ulcer disease. If you have a peptic ulcer resulting from an infection of H. pylori bacteria, gastric acid is eating away at the inner surface or lining of the stomach or small intestine, which a thick layer of mucous is normally able to protect. Consequently, developing a stomach ulcer creates an open sore that can lead to continued irritation, stomach pain, and potentially bleeding. Though peptic ulcers are common and treatable, it is vital that you address them sooner rather than later, per Cleveland Clinic.

Bleeding ulcer: causes, diagnosis and treatment

Besides H. pylori, researchers have also determined that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) also put you at risk for developing ulcers. It is not guaranteed you will develop a stomach ulcer when taking an NSAID, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen. However, you increase your risk if you ingest a higher dosage than normal, take them too often, consume alcohol, have had ulcers previously, or are elderly, according to the experts at Healthline.

If you are experiencing a bleeding ulcer, health experts consider this a serious situation. Bleeding ulcers often lead to bloody stools, bloody vomit, or anemia. They typically require hospital admission and possibly surgery, per Healthline.

To confirm whether you have a bleeding ulcer, your doctor will review your health history and administer tests to determine if you have the presence of H. pylori bacteria in your system. A breath test is considered the most accurate, but your doctor may also take samples of your blood or stool, according to experts at Mayo Clinic. Other possible tests include an endoscopy, which is when your doctor passes a tube with a small lens through your throat to examine your digestive system, or a barium swallow, which is a series of x-rays.

Depending on the severity of a bleeding ulcer, treatment will vary. This may include medications, an endoscopy to stop the bleeding, or surgery — either by laparoscopy or through an incision in the abdomen. Expect follow-ups as required, per Gastroenterology Consultants.