The gastroenterology experts at the University of Vermont (UVM) Medical Center have extensive experience diagnosing and treating all types of gastrointestinal (GI) disease, including ulcers. We provide the comprehensive, personalized care you need so you can get back to doing the activities you love, pain-free.
Ulcer Treatment: Why Choose Us?
Ulcer pain can range from mild discomfort to severe pain. Left untreated, ulcers can result in complications such as internal bleeding; perforation or a blockage. Our team provides you with a personalized treatment plan so you can get the relief you need. At the UVM Medical Center, you will find:
- Experienced team: The GI team at the UVM Medical Center sees many patients every year, performing more than 12,000 different GI procedures per year. This high volume gives us the skills and experience to make an expert diagnose and create a personalized treatment plan for you.
- Dedicated specialists: Our GI specialists have dedicated their careers to diagnosing and treating the full spectrum of gastrointestinal disease. No matter what your symptoms are or how complex your situation is, we provide effective, comprehensive and individualized care.
- Depth of expertise: As a large academic medical center, we have access to the latest therapies and diagnostic tools. We are at the cutting edge of research, able to offer innovative treatments and techniques to our patients. Currently, we are involved in microbiome and fecal transfer research, the field of using “good” bacteria and probiotics to treat a wide range of diseases.
What is an Ulcer?
An ulcer is a break in the mucosa, the layer lining the stomach or the duodenum, the duodenum is upper part of the small intestine. Causes of peptic ulcers, the most common type of ulcers, include:
- H. pylori infection: If you were exposed to the H. pylori bacterium, you may have an increased risk of developing a peptic ulcer.
- Medication: Frequent use of over-the-counter medications, such as aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, found in medications such as Advil®, Aleve® and Motrin®). Because older patients may be on a daily regimen of NSAIDs for other health problems, they may be at more risk of developing ulcers.
- Lifestyle habits: Smoking, heavy alcohol use, a poor diet and stress may contribute to ulcer development as well.
Symptoms of an ulcer include:
- Burning pain in the middle of the abdomen, occurring more with more intensity between meals or at night; may improve slightly with food
- Nausea or vomiting
- Weight loss
Ulcer Diagnosis: Our Approach
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis. Rarely, an ulcer may be the sign of a malignancy (cancer) or the beginning of a disease such as Crohn’s disease. An expert GI center can get you the right diagnosis and effective treatment plan.
Listening is the most crucial part of diagnosing ulcers. We take time to ask you about you:
- Symptoms, including when and where you feel the pain, what makes it worse and what helps it subside.
- Medical history, including infections you’ve had and medications you take regularly.
Diagnostic Procedures for Ulcers
Diagnosis starts with a thorough review of your medical history. Then, your doctor may recommend one or more diagnostic procedures:
- Stool sample: We analyze a sample of stool looking for the presence of the H. pylori bacterium. At UVM Medical Center, we also offer a breath test to detect H. pylori. You eat a small snack and then breathe into a bag. We get the results of both the breath test and the stool sample within a few days.
- Endoscopy or gastroscopy: We perform this in our hospital’s sophisticated endoscopy suite. After giving you an intravenous sedative, we insert a long, flexible tube into your mouth and down your throat. This gives us a detailed view of your stomach and duodenum so we can look for ulcers. We can also take a small tissue sample for analysis (biopsy).
- Imaging scans: If our initial exams show a suspicious area, we may order a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or computed tomography (CT) scan to look at the area in greater detail.
Treatment for ulcers depends on a number of factors, including your age and the type of ulcer disease you have. Our team will work with you to tailor a treatment plan that meets your needs. The primary treatment option is medication:
- For H. pylori-related peptic ulcers: You take a course of antibiotics and acid suppressants for two weeks. It is important to eradicate the H. pylori bacterium for a complete cure.
- For NSAID-related peptic ulcers: One recommendation may be to stop taking the NSAIDs you are currently using. However, you may be taking on NSAIDs for conditions such as joint problems. Without the NSAID relief, you may not be able to function. If this is the case, and you need the NSAIDs, we will add an acid suppressant to your medication regimen. The ulcer may take longer to heal, but you are able to continue taking your medication.
For a minority of patients (less than one percent), surgery may be an option. We rarely operate on patients with peptic ulcers; however, should you need a procedure, we have the skills and resources to perform all types of gastrointestinal surgery.
Ulcers: Managing Complications
Our team works with you to manage any complications relating to ulcers. For example, if you experience bleeding from the ulcer, we can stop the bleeding using an endoscopic approach instead of surgery. Be sure to tell your doctor if you experience any pain or discomfort during your treatment and recovery period.
Find a UVM Medical Center Gatroenterologist
or call 802-847-8865 to learn more or make an appointment.