Stomach Ulcer – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

What is a stomach ulcer?

Stomach ulcers or gastric ulcers, are painful sores that develop in the stomach lining. Stomach ulcers are a type of peptic ulcer disease. Peptic ulcers are any sores that occurs in both the stomach and small intestines.

Stomach ulcers occur when the thick mucosal layer that protects your stomach from gastric acid is decreased. This allows the digestive acids to damage the tissues that line the stomach, leading to ulcer.

Stomach ulcers may be easily treated, but they can become severe if proper treatment is not provided.

What causes stomach ulcers?

Stomach ulcers are almost always caused by one of the following reasons:

  • infection with the Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria
  • prolonged use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen

Rarely, a disease known as Zollinger-Ellison syndrome can cause stomach and intestinal ulcers by too much production of acid. This syndrome is suspected to cause less than 1 percent of all peptic ulcers.

Symptoms of stomach ulcers

A number of symptoms are related to stomach ulcers. The seriousness of the symptoms depends on the seriousness of the ulcer.

The most common symptom is a burning sensation or pain in the mid part of your abdomen between your chest and umbilicus. Usually, the pain will be more intense when your are in empty stomach and it can last for a few minutes to several hours.

Other common signs and symptoms of ulcers are:

  • dull pain in the stomach
  • weight loss
  • decrease in appetite because of pain
  • nausea or vomiting
  • bloating
  • feeling easily full
  • burping or acid reflux
  • heartburn, which is a burning sensation in the chest)
  • pain that may intensed when you eat, drink, or take antacids
  • anemia, whose symptoms can include tiredness, shortness of breath, or pale skin
  • dark, tarry stools
  • blood in vomit which looks like coffee grounds

Consult your doctor if you have any symptoms of a stomach ulcer. Even though discomfort may be mild, ulcers can be severe if they aren’t treated. Bleeding ulcers can become life-threatening.

How are stomach ulcers diagnosed?

Diagnosis and treatment will be done on the basis of your symptoms and the seriousness of your ulcer. To diagnose a stomach ulcer, your doctor will check your medical history along with your symptoms and any prescription or over-the-counter medications you are taking.

To eleminate H. pylori infection, a blood, stool, or breath test may be performed.With a breath test, you’ll be ordered to drink a clear liquid and breathe into a bag, which is then sealed. If there is presence of H. pylori is , the breath sample will contain more-than-normal levels of carbon dioxide.

Other tests and procedures are done to diagnose stomach ulcers include:

  • Barium swallowYou drink a thick white liquid (barium) that coats your upper gastrointestinal tract and helps your doctor to easily see your stomach and small intestine on X-rays.
  • Endoscopy (EGD): A thin tube is attached with light, inserted through your mouth and into the stomach and the first part of the small intestine. This test is used to look for ulcers, bleeding, and any abnormal tissue.
  • Endoscopic biopsy: A piece of stomach tissue is removed for its detailed analysis in the lab.

Treating stomach ulcers

Treatment will differ on the basis of cause of your ulcer. Most ulcers can be treated with a prescription from your doctor, but in rare cases, surgery may be needed.

It’s important to immediately treat an ulcer. Visit your doctor to know about treatment plan. If you have an actively bleeding ulcer, you’ll probably be hospitalized for intensive treatment with endoscopy and IV ulcer medications. You may also need a blood transfusion.

Nonsurgical treatment

If your stomach ulcer is because of the  H. pylori, you will need antibiotics and drugs known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). PPIs block the stomach cells that produce acid.

Along with these treatments, your doctor may also prescribe:

  • H2 receptor blockers (drugs that also block acid production)
  • avoiding use of all NSAIDs
  • follow-up endoscopy
  • probiotics (useful bacteria that may have a role in killing off H. pylori)
  • bismuth supplement

Symptoms of an ulcer may go down very fastly with treatment. But even if your symptoms disappear, you should continue to take your prescribed medications. This is particularly important with H. pylori infections, to ensure that all bacteria are all bacteria are removed.

Side effects of medications used to treat stomach ulcers can include:

These side effects are usually transient. If any of these side effects cause extreme discomfort, consult with your doctor about changing your medication.

Surgical treatment

In very rare cases, a complicated and severe stomach ulcer will need surgery. This may be the case for ulcers that:

  • always recurs
  • don’t heal
  • bleed
  • tear through the stomach
  • keep food from flowing out of the stomach into the small intestine

Surgery may include:

  • removal of the entire ulcer
  • removing tissue from another part of the intestines and attaching it over the ulcer site
  • tying off a bleeding artery
  • cutting off the nerve supply to the stomach to decrease the production of gastric acid

Healthful diet

Previously, it was believed that diet could lead to ulcers. We know now this isn’t true. We also know that while the foods you eat won’t cause or cure a stomach ulcer, eating a healthful diet can improve your intestinal tract and overall health.

Generally, it’s a better choice to eat a diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, and fiber.

That said, it’s possible that some foods can help in removing H. pylori. Foods that may help fight off H. pylori or improve the body’s own healthy bacteria include:

  • broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and radishes
  • leafy greens vegitables, like spinach
  • probiotic-rich foods, such as sauerkraut, miso, kombucha, yogurt (mainly with lactobacillus and Sacharomyces)
  • apples
  • blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries
  • olive oil

Moreover, since people with stomach ulcers may have accompanying acid reflux disease, it is a great choice to avoid spicy and sour foods during the period when an ulcer is healing.

Home remedies for stomach ulcers

Along with eating healthy foods, the following items may help lower the effects of H. pylori, the bacteria causing many stomach ulcers. However, these supplements are not deliberated to replace prescription medication or your current treatment plan. They include:

  • probiotics
  • honey
  • glutamine (food sources are: chicken, fish, eggs, spinach, and cabbage)

Your doctor may also have suggestions or remedies for things you can do at home to get rid of discomfort from your ulcer. Consider talking to your doctor about these natural and home remedies for ulcers.

When should you call or see a doctor?

If you think you have a stomach ulcer, visit to your doctor. Where you can discuss about your symptoms and treatment options. If you don’t already have a physician, you can use the Healthline FindCare tool to find a doctor near you.

It’s important to take proper care stomach ulcer of because if left untreated , ulcers and H. pylori can cause:

  • bleeding from the ulcer site that can become life-threatening
  • penetration, which happens when the ulcer travels through the wall of the gastrointestinal tract and into another organs, such as the pancreas
  • perforation, which occurs when the ulcer makes a hole in the wall of the digestive tract
  • obstruction (blockage) in the digestive tract, which is because of swelling of inflamed tissues
  • stomach cancer, particularly non-cardia gastric cancerTrusted Source

Symptoms of these complications can include those listed below. If you experience any of these symptoms, make sure to consult with your doctor immediately.

  • weakness
  • difficulty breathing
  • red or black vomit or stools
  • sudden, sharp pain in your abdomen that doesn’t subsides

Prevention of stomach ulcers

To prevent the spread of bacteria that might cause a stomach ulcer, wash your hands property with soap and water on a regular basis. Also, make sure to properly clean all of your food and to cook it completely as required.

To prevent ulcers caused by NSAIDs, stop using these medications (if possible) or reduce their use. If you need to take NSAIDs, make sure to follow the prescribed dosage and stop alcohol consumption while taking these medications. And always take these medications with food and adequate liquids.

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