Stomach Ulcers: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
Stomach ulcers are sores that develop on the inside of the lining of your stomach and the upper portion of your small intestine.
It is important to note that stomach ulcers are a type of peptic ulcer disease and these are any ulcers that affect both your stomach and small intestines.
Keep on reading to learn more about them in detail.
Stomach Ulcers: Symptoms and Causes
Stomach ulcers occur when the thick layer of mucus that protects your stomach from the digestive system reduces
This allows the acids to eat away at the tissues that line your stomach and small intestines.
However, it is important to note that you can cure stomach ulcers easily, but they can become severe if you do not get proper treatment.
Let’s learn more about it in detail.
Symptoms of Stomach Ulcers
There are a number of symptoms that occur along with stomach ulcers. The severity of stomach ulcers, however, depends on the severity of the ulcer.
The most common symptom is a burning sensation or pain in the middle of your abdomen between the chest and the belly button.
Often, the pain tends to be more intense when your stomach is empty and can last for a few minutes to several hours.
Some of the other common signs and symptoms of stomach ulcers are:
- dull pain in your stomach
- weight loss
- not wanting to eat because of pain
- nausea or vomiting
- feeling of fullness
- burping or acid reflux
- dark, tarry stools
Moreover, heartburn is a burning sensation in the chest, pain that may improve when you eat, drink, or take antacids, anemia, in which the symptoms can include tiredness, shortness of breath, paler skin, and vomiting bloody or that looks like coffee grounds are the signs and symptoms.
Therefore, it is important to talk to your doctor or seek medical advice if you have any symptoms of a stomach ulcer.
Even though the discomfort you may feel is mild, ulcers can worsen if you do not treat them.
Bleeding ulcers can even become life-threatening.
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Causes of Stomach Ulcers
Stomach ulcers occur when the acid in your digestive tracts eats away the tissue that lines the surface of your stomach or small intestines.
This acid can create a painful open sore that may also bleed.
Your digestive tract has a coating with a mucous layer that normally protects against this acid.
However, if the number of acid increases or the number of mucous decreases, you can develop an ulcer.
Some of the common causes of stomach ulcers are:
A Bacterium Helicopter pylori bacteria lives in the mucous layer that covers and protects the lining of your stomach and small intestine.
In most cases, the H. pylori bacterium causes no problem, however, it can cause inflammation of the inner layer of the stomach, thus, producing an ulcer.
It is not clear how H.pylori infection spreads. It may transmit from one person to another by close contact.
While it may also be present and transit through food and water.
Using Pain Relievers Taking aspirin as well as using over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers, i.e. nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, NSAIDs can cause stomach ulcers.
Moreover, these can irritate the lining of your stomach and small intestine.
It is important to note that these medications include ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, ketoprofen, and others.
However, this list does not contain acetaminophen.
Other Medications Taking certain medications along with NSAIDs like steroids, anticoagulants, low-dose aspirin, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SSRIs, alendronate, and risedronate can greatly increase your chances of having ulcers.
Stomach Ulcers: Risk Factors, Complications, and Diagnosis
There are certain factors that can increase your chances of having stomach ulcers.
Moreover, if you do not get treatment, or avoid following the treatment properly, it can potentially lead to complications.
Thus, you need to keep in check your symptoms, so that you can timely treatment to avoid any complications.
Keep on reading.
Risk Factors of Stomach Ulcers
Additionally, to have risks related to taking NSAIDs, you may have an increase in the risk of stomach ulcers if you:
Smoke Smoking can increase your risk of developing ulcers in case you have an infection with H. pylori.
Alcohol can irritate and even erode the mucus lining of your stomach and it also increases the amount of stomach acid that it produces.
Untreated Stress In some cases, if you have extensive stress, it can also lead to developing ulcers in your stomach.
Eating Spicy Foods In some cases, eating spicy foods can also cause ulcers.
However, it is important to note that alone these factors do not cause ulcers, but they can make ulcers worse and more difficult to heal.
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Complication if you do not get Treatment
If you do not get treatment, stomach ulcers can lead to complications.
Internal Bleeding Bleeding can occur as slow blood loss leads to anemia or in case of severe blood loss, you may need hospitalization or a blood transfusion.
Moreover, in case of severe blood loss, it may cause black or bloody vomit or black or bloody stools.
Perforation in the Stomach Wall Stomach ulcers can eat a hole through or perforate the wall of your stomach or small intestines, putting you at risk of serious infections of the abdominal cavity or peritonitis.
Obstruction Stomach ulcers can lead to blocking the passage of food through the digestive tract.
Moreover, it can cause you to become full easily, vomit, and lose weight either through swelling from inflammation or through scarring.
Gastric Cancer Studies indicate that if you have an infection with H. pylori, then you have an increase in the risk of gastric cancer.
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Diagnosing Stomach Ulcers
Diagnosis and treatment of stomach ulcers depend on your symptoms and the severity of the ulcer.
In order to diagnose stomach ulcers, your doctor will first review your medical history along with the symptoms and any prescription and OTC medications you are taking.
Moreover, to rule out H. pylori infections, a blood, stool, or breath test can help.
With this test, your doctor will instruct you to drink a clear liquid and breath into a bag, which they will seal.
In case H. pylori are present, the breath sample will contain higher-than-normal levels of carbon dioxide.
Furthermore, some other tests and procedures can help to diagnose stomach ulcers. These are:
Barium Swallow You will need to drink a thick white liquid, i.e barium that coats your upper gastrointestinal tracts.
This will help your doctor to see your stomach and small intestines on X-rays.
Endoscopy, EGD During this procedure, your doctor will insert a thin, lighted tube through your mouth and into the stomach and the first part of the small intestine.
With the help of this test, your doctor can look for ulcers, bleeding, and any tissue that looks abnormal.
Endoscopic Biopsy A piece of stomach tissue will be removed so your doctor can analyze them in a lab.
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Treatment Options and More
In order to treat stomach ulcers, often depends on the diagnosis.
Your diagnosis can help your doctor to understand the cause of your ulcers, and with this, they can recommend a treatment plan. Moreover, with the help of a healthful diet, you can also reduce your risk of stomach ulcers.
Keep on reading to learn more about it in detail.
Treatment varies and depends on the cause of the ulcers. Most often, your doctor can treat ulcers with prescription medication. However, in rare cases, you may need surgery.
It is important to promptly treat stomach ulcers. Therefore, talk to your doctor to discuss a treatment plan.
In case you have an actively bleeding ulcer, you will likely be hospitalized for intensive treatment with endoscopy and IV ulcer medications.
Moreover, you may also need a blood transfusion.
Nonsurgical Treatment Options
In case the cause of your ulcers is H. pylori infection, then your doctor will prescribe antibiotics and drugs: proton pump inhibitors, PPIs.
PPIs can help block the stomach cells that produce acids.
In addition to the above treatments, your doctor can also recommend other medications.
- H2 receptor blockers, drugs that also block acid production
- discontinuing the use of NSAIDs
- follow-up endoscopy
- probiotics that are useful bacteria to help kill H. pylori
- bismuth supplement
It is important to note that the symptoms of an ulcer can subside quickly, however, even if they do, you should continue to take the prescription medications by your doctor.
Moreover, this is particularly important with H. pylori infections to make sure that all the bacteria are eliminated.
However, the side effects are often temporary. If any of the above side effects are causing extreme discomfort, talk to your doctor about changing your medications.
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In rare cases, a complicated stomach ulcer will need surgery. This may be the case of ulcers that:
Continue to return, do not heal, bleed, tear through the stomach, keep food from flowing out of the stomach into the small intestine.
Surgery may include the removal of the entire ulcer, taking tissue from another part of the intestines and patching it over the ulcer site, tying off the bleeding artery, and cutting off the nerve supply to the stomach in order to reduce the production of stomach acid.
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In the past, many doctors and researchers were of the view that diet can lead to ulcers.
However, it is not true. Many are of the view that though the foods you eat do not cause or cure a stomach ulcer, eating a healthful diet can help your intestinal tract and overall health.
Generally, it is a good idea to eat a diet with a lot of fruits, vegetables, and fiber.
With that, it is also possible to eat some foods that play a role in eliminating H. pylori.
Certain foods that can help fight off H. pylori or boost the healthy bacteria in your body are:
- broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale
- leafy greens like spinach and kale
- probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut, miso, kombucha, yogurt, especially with lactobacillus and Saccharomyces
- blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries
- olive oil
In addition to the above, people with stomach ulcers may have accompanying acid reflux disease.
Therefore, it is a good idea to stay away from spicy foods and sour foods for a while while the ulcer is healing.
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In addition to eating healthy foods, the following can help to reduce the effects of H. pylori.
It is the bacteria responsible for a number of stomach ulcers.
However, the following supplements are not intended to replace prescription medications or your current treatment plan. These are:
- glutamine, food sources like fish, eggs, spinach, and cabbage
Moreover, your doctor may also suggest things you can do at home to relieve discomfort from your ulcer.
Consider talking to your doctor about the above natural and home remedies for ulcers.
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When to Visit a Doctor?
If you think you have a stomach ulcer, call your doctor. Together you can discuss the symptoms and treatment options.
Moreover, it is important to take care of a stomach ulcer as without treatment, ulcers, and H. pylori can cause:
Bleeding for the ulcer site can be life-threatening.
Penetration occurs when the ulcer goes through the wall of the digestive tract and into another organ, like the pancreas.
Perforation occurs when the ulcer creates a hole in the wall of the digestive tract.
Obstruction or blockage in the digestive tract is due to swelling of inflamed tissues.
Stomach Cancer specifically noncardiac gastric cancer.
Symptoms of these complications are weakness, trouble breathing, red or black vomit or stools, and sudden, sharp pain in your abdomen that does not go away.
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Summing it Up
In order to prevent the spread of bacteria that may lead to the development of stomach ulcers, wash your hands with soap and water on a regular basis, Moreover, make sure to properly clean all of your food and cook it thoroughly as needed.
Furthermore, to prevent ulcers that occur due to NSAIDs, stop using them or limit their use. If you do need to take them, make sure to follow the recommended dosage and avoid alcohol while taking these medications. Make sure to take these medications with food and adequate liquids.