Ulcers cause gnawing, burning pain in the upper abdomen. These symptoms frequently occur several hours following a meal, after the food leaves the stomach but while acid production is still high. The burning sensation can occur during the night and be so extreme as to wake the patient. Instead of pain, some patients experience intense hunger or bloating. Antacids and milk usually give temporary relief. Other patients have no pain but have black stools, indicating that the ulcer is bleeding. Bleeding is a serious complication of ulcers.
Many people harbor H. pylori in their stomachs without ever having pain or ulcers. It is not completely clear whether these patients should be treated with antibiotics. More studies are needed to answer this question. Patients with documented ulcer disease and H. pylori infection should be treated for both the ulcer and the H. pylori . H. pylori can be very difficult to completely eradicate. Treatment requires a combination of several antibiotics, sometimes in combination with a proton-pump inhibitor, H2 blockers, or Pepto-Bismol . Commonly used antibiotics are tetracycline , amoxicillin , metronidazole (Flagyl), clarithromycin (Biaxin), and levofloxacin (Levaquin). Eradication of H. pylori prevents the return of ulcers (a major problem with all other ulcer treatment options). Elimination of this bacteria also may decrease the risk of developing gastric cancer in the future. Treatment with antibiotics carries the risk of allergic reactions, diarrhea, and sometimes severe antibiotic-induced colitis (inflammation of the colon).