If you have a stomach ulcer, your treatment will depend on what caused it.
With treatment, most ulcers heal in a month or two.
Treating Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection
If your stomach ulcer's caused by a Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacterial infection, you'll be given:
- a course of antibiotics
- a medication called a proton pump inhibitor (PPI)
This is also recommended if it's thought your stomach ulcer's caused by a combination of an H. pylori infection and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
If you have an H. pylori infection, you'll usually be prescribed a course of 2 or 3 antibiotics.
The most commonly used antibiotics are:
You should take these twice a day for a week.
The side effects of these are usually mild, but can include:
- feeling and being sick
- a metallic taste in your mouth
You'll be re-tested at least 4 weeks after finishing your antibiotic course to see if there are any H. pylori bacteria left in your stomach. If there are, a further course of eradication therapy using different antibiotics may be given.
Ulcers caused by NSAIDs
If your stomach ulcer's caused by taking NSAIDs:
- you'll be given a course of PPI medication
- your use of NSAIDs will be reviewed, and you may be advised to use an alternative painkiller
You may be advised to use an alternative painkiller not associated with stomach ulcers, such as paracetamol.
COX-2 inhibitors are sometimes recommended. These are an alternative type of NSAID that's less likely to cause stomach ulcers.
If you're taking low-dose aspirin to reduce your risk of blood clots, your GP will tell you whether you need to keep taking it.
If you do, you may also be prescribed long-term treatment with a PPI or H2-receptor antagonist to prevent further ulcers.
It's important to understand the potential risks associated with continued NSAID use.
You're more likely to develop another stomach ulcer and could experience a serious complication, such as internal bleeding.
Read more about the complications of stomach ulcers
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
PPIs work by reducing the amount of acid your stomach produces. This prevents further damage to the ulcer as it heals naturally.
The most commonly used PPIs are:
They're usually prescribed for 4 to 8 weeks.
Side effects of these are usually mild, but can include:
These should pass once treatment has been completed.
Sometimes a type of medication called H2-receptor antagonists are used instead of PPIs.
These also reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces.
Ranitidine is the most widely used H2-receptor antagonist for treating stomach ulcers.
Side effects are uncommon, but can include:
Antacids and alginates
As these treatments can take several hours before they start to work, your GP may recommend taking additional antacid medication.
- neutralise your stomach acid
- provide immediate, but short-term, symptom relief
- should be taken when you experience symptoms or when you expect them, such as after meals or at bedtime
Some antacids also contain a medicine called an alginate, which produces a protective coating on the lining of your stomach. Antacids containing alginates are best taken after meals.
You can buy these medications at pharmacies. Your pharmacist can tell you which is most suitable for you.
Side effects of both medications are usually mild, but can include:
There aren't any special lifestyle measures you need to take during treatment.
However, avoiding stress, alcohol, spicy foods and smoking may reduce your symptoms while your ulcer heals.