I've got the peptic ulcer blues and I don't know the cure
December 9, 2010 2:43 PM   Subscribe

What can I do to ease peptic ulcer pain?

After two and a half days of severe abdominal pain, I finally went to the ER late last night, where they diagnosed me with a peptic ulcer. They said it was likely already developing and that the strong dose of antibiotics I was on (for a sinus infection) exacerbated it and blew it out of control.

I'm armed with the Prilosec they prescribed, but I'm still feeling pretty bad. Taking deep breaths and eating or drinking cause stabby-type pains, and when I don't eat for a while it stays at a constant gnawing/empty pain.

I have slept maybe 10 hours in the last couple days because the pain keeps me awake. Besides eating a bland diet and taking the Prilosec once a day, is there anything I can do to feel better? Walking hurts, working out seems like it'd be a bad idea, even taking a warm shower didn't help. I assume I shouldn't take Advil or anything for the pain because NSAIDs aggravate ulcers.

Please help me feel more comfortable while I wait for the Prilosec to (hopefully) do its job! I am pretty miserable. I'm also a little terrified that it might bleed or perforate, so any data reassuring me that that's unlikely at this stage is also appreciated.
posted by rachaelfaith to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Ouch! I'm sorry you have to go through this. When I got a nasty stomach infection, I ate a lot of pudding and rice with a bit of chicken. The pudding seemed especially soothing. For a few days there, I couldn't eat much else. I laid around and slept as much as I could, I think you're on the right track there.

A heating pad laid across my stomach also seemed to help.
posted by backwards compatible at 3:04 PM on December 9, 2010

Best answer: Acetaminophen is available over the counter. It's not an NSAID and won't exacerbate your ulcer. Don't take it if you have any liver problems. Don't take more than the bottle says to. Make sure that no other medications you're taking have acetaminophen in them.

You're correct that you should avoid NSAIDs. These include ibuprofen (advil, motrin) and naproxen (alleve).

There are further medications available for pain relief, but in the US, they're only available by prescription.

OTC antacids can help with pain, but can interact with a lot of different medications.

Paying attention to your diet can help. Small amounts of food help. Bland foods help.

I don't think I can make any comments about the likelihood of bleeding out from this. It's unlikely in a (relatively) healthy 23 year old, but then, it's unlikely for a healthy 23 year old to develop a peptic ulcer.

If you have a doctor, make an appointment. Say, "I was in the ER and they found a peptic ulcer." Your doctor will want to follow up. Make sure they realize that your pain is severe and that you would like treatment for it.

If you don't have a doctor, and it's beyond your ability to find/afford one, judge whether you need to return to an ER by the severity of your symptoms. I assume that your only symptom was pain?

If your pain becomes suddenly worse, or significantly worse, call your doctor or return to the ER. If you vomit blood, go to the ER.

Write back with any clarifications you have, or any further questions, and I'm sure people will be happy to help. Best of luck.
posted by nathan v at 3:33 PM on December 9, 2010

Pretty much the only things I could eat for days at a time were toasted bagels, tiny bits of well cooked meat and bland cheese. Vegetables are a bad idea, anything cold or salty is a bad idea, acidic stuff like fruit is right out.
posted by fshgrl at 3:48 PM on December 9, 2010

When I had an ulcer, I found that Haribos gummybears had a remarkably calming effect. Just one or two individual bears for a couple of minutes of relief. Might not work for you, but worth trying. (Seems the gelatin appears to be what helps). I had many months of experimenting mind you...
posted by lundman at 6:08 PM on December 9, 2010

Cut out/limit coffee and cigarettes if you consume them. Try to keep something in your stomach, something with fat in it, I drink whole milk.

And look for Pepto Bismal -- not antacids, they make the acid cycle worse -- but specifically the bismuth subsalicylate, it actually helps cure ulcers. I've felt better within days.
posted by MeiraV at 6:19 PM on December 9, 2010

Best answer: IANYD but I usually advise patients to use Maalox for the acute short term symptoms (Pepto Bismol is good too though). It takes Prilosec time to work so it cannot relieve your pain right away, as you're finding, but the good news is it usually only takes a few days to kick in and ulcer treatment is usually quite effective.

Perforation and bleeding are more likely in elderly patients, people who are chronically ill, or people taking drugs which cause ulcers. You don't sound like you are this type of person. Perforation is rare and bleeding, though more common, is typically mild in a healthy person. Definitely do not take NSAIDs such as ibuprofen.

Don't forget to follow up closely with your primary care doctor to get checked for H. pylori, so you can be treated for that if that is the problem.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:49 PM on December 9, 2010

I went through a similar period of horrifically painful stomach issues a few years back. The Prilosec TOTALLY changed my life, but while waiting for it to work, a combination of Pepcid, Tums and Gaviscon worked pretty well (and as long as you space 'em out so you're not courting hypercalcaemia).
posted by julthumbscrew at 8:19 PM on December 9, 2010

Ask your doc for some Carafate. It's like super duper strength Mylanta. It actually works with the acid to bind to the ulcerated spots and create a band-aid like effect. I've had to use it with both of my kids while getting their meds adjusted - it's miraculous and stops the screaming immediately. Also, all H2blockers and all PPIs do not work for everyone. If Prilosec doesn't get the job done don't be afraid to ask for a different drug. If you are doing tums or other antacids, make sure to ask your pharmacist about timing your doses. If you take antacids too close to your PPI dose you won't get full benefit (or sometimes ANY benefit) from your PPI. Of course, IANAD, just a momma to two severe reflux babies.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 8:41 PM on December 9, 2010

Did they ask you to see another doctor as part of your follow-up? If their diagnosis was peptic ulcer, then prilosec (omeprazole) is not enough.

Please go see your doctor.
posted by onegoodthing at 4:43 AM on December 10, 2010

Response by poster: I do have a gastroenterologist that I've made an appointment with, so hopefully he can provide some more insight and/or treatment.

The pain is a little less today, and the heating pad does help it a bit. So far, I'm pretty much eating chicken broth and noodles and crackers. Bleh. Thanks, all.
posted by rachaelfaith at 10:23 AM on December 10, 2010

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