What is a stomach ulcer?
Stomach ulcers, also known as gastric ulcers, are painful sores in the stomach lining. Stomach ulcers are a kind of peptic ulcer disease. Peptic ulcers are any ulcers that disturb both the stomach and small intestines.
Stomach ulcers happen when the thick layer of mucus that protects your stomach from digestive juices gets reduced. This lets the digestive acids to eat away at the tissues that line the stomach, creating an ulcer.
Stomach ulcers can be easily cured, but they can become severe without the right treatment.
What are the causes of stomach ulcers?
Stomach ulcers are mostly caused by one of the following:
- an infection with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori(H.Pylori)
- long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin,ibuprofen or naproxen
Rarely, a condition refered to as Zollinger-Ellison syndrome can create stomach and intestinal ulcers by increasing the body’s production of acid. This syndrome is thought to cause less than 1 percent of all peptic ulcers.
Symptoms of stomach ulcers
A number of symptoms are linked with stomach ulcers. The severity of the signs and symptoms depends on the severity of the ulcer.
The most frequent symptom is a burning sensation or pain in the middle of your abdomen between your chest and belly button. Typically, the pain will be more intense when your stomach is empty, and it can last for a few minutes to several hours.
Other common symptoms of ulcers include:
- dull pain in the stomach
- weight loss
- no appetite to eat because of pain
- nausea or vomiting
- feeling easily full
- burping or acid reflux
- heartburn (burning sensation in the chest)
- pain that may increase when you eat, drink, or take antacids
- anemia (signs can include tiredness, shortness of breath, or paler skin)
- dark, tarry stools
- vomit that’s bloody or looks like coffee grounds
Talk to your doctor if you have any signs of a stomach ulcer. Even though discomfort may be mild, ulcers can worsen if they aren’t treated. Bleeding ulcers can become life-threatening.
How stomach ulcers are diagnosed?
Diagnosis and treatment are dependent on your symptoms and the severity of your ulcer. To diagnose a stomach ulcer, your doctor will review your medical history along with your signs and any prescription or over-the-counter medications you’re taking.
To rule out H. pylori infection, a blood, stool, or breath test may be required. With a breath test, you’ll be instructed to drink a clear liquid and breathe into a bag, which is then sealed. If H. pylori is present, the breath sample will contain higher-than-normal levels of carbon dioxide.
Other tests and procedures used to diagnose stomach ulcers are inclusive:
- Barium swallow: You drink a thick white liquid (barium) that coats your upper gastrointestinal tract and aids your doctor see your stomach and small intestine on X-rays.
- Endoscopy(EGD): A thin, lighted tube is inserted via 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 tissue that looks abnormal.
- Endoscopic biopsy:A piece of stomach tissue is take out so it can be analyzed in a lab.
Treating stomach ulcers
Treatment will vary depending on the cause of your ulcer. Most ulcers can be treated with a prescription from your doctor, but in rare situation, surgery may be needed.
It’s vital to promptly treat an ulcer. Talk to your doctor to discuss a treatment plan. If you have an actively bleeding ulcer, you’ll likely be hospitalized for intensive treatment with endoscopy and IV ulcer medications. You may also need a blood transfusion.
If your stomach ulcer is the result of H. pylori, you’ll require antibiotics and drugs called proton pump inhibitors PPIs). PPIs block the stomach cells that generate acid.
In addition to these treatments, your doctor may also recommend:
- H2 receptor Blocker (drugs that also block acid production)
- stopping use of all NSAIDs
- follow-up endoscopy
- probiotics (useful bacteria that may have a role in killing off pylori)
- bismuth supplement
READ ALSO:WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF TYPE 2 DIABETES
Signs of an ulcer may subside quickly with treatment. But even if your signs disappear, you should continue to take any medication prescribed by your doctor. This is especially vital with H. pylori infections, to make sure that all bacteria are eliminated.
Side effects of medications needed to treat stomach ulcers can include:
- abdominal pain
These side effects are typically temporary. If any of these side effects cause extreme discomfort, talk to your doctor about changing your medication.
In very rare situations, a complicated stomach ulcer will require surgery. This may be the case for ulcers that:
- continue to return
- don’t heal
- tear through the stomach
- keep food from flowing out of the stomach into the small intestine
Surgery may be inclusive of:
- removal of the entire ulcer
- taking tissue from another part of the intestines and patching it over the ulcer site
- tying off a bleeding artery
- cutting off the nerve supply to the stomach to minimize the production of stomach acid