Stomach ulcers are sores on the lining of the stomach or small intestine. It develops when the stomach's protecting mucus becomes ineffective. The stomach produces strong acid that helps digest food and protects against germs. It also secretes a thick coating of mucus to shield the body's tissues from the acid. If the mucus layer wears down and stops working effectively, the acid can damage stomach tissue and cause an ulcer. It is estimated that one in ten people in Western countries will have an ulcer in the stomach or small intestine at some point in their life. They are relatively easy to heal, but they can cause significant problems if left untreated. Symptoms like pain and indigestion, felt where food sits in the stomach, can raise concerns about an ulcer.
What is a Stomach Ulcer?
When a small area of the surface on the inside of the stomach is damaged in a certain way, this is a stomach ulcer. Ulcers can happen just past the stomach, too slightly lower down the gut, in the first few centimeters of the small intestine. The cause is damage from the acid contents of the stomach. The stomach is where food first sits after passing down from the mouth. Stomach acid and churning help with digesting food. The acid also helps protect against harm from microbes. The stomach protects itself from the acid it secretes. If this surface protection is harmed, the acid can cause damage. This damage is what results in an ulcer. Mouth ulcers and stomach ulcers are both shallow holes in the surface of the moist tissue in these areas.
Several symptoms are associated with stomach ulcers. The severity of the symptoms is dependent on the ulcer's severity. The most common symptom is a burning or aching sensation in the middle of the abdomen between the chest and the belly button. The pain will usually be most severe when the stomach is empty and can last from a few minutes to several hours.
- Dull pain in the stomach
- Not wanting to eat out of pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Feeling full easily
- Belching or acid reflux
- Heartburn, which is a burning sensation in the chest)
- Pain that may improve when you eat, drink, or take antacids
- Anemia, the symptoms of which may include tiredness, shortness of breath, or paler skin.
- Dark, tarry stools
- Vomit that is bloody or looks like coffee grounds.
Ulcers in the stomach tend to show slightly different symptoms and signs than in the small intestine:
- Stomach ulcers tend to show less clear symptoms and the pain is less constant. Sometimes the pain worsens after eating food.
- Small bowel ulcers are more likely to be in constant pain. The pain can wake many up in the middle of the night, but it doesn't appear first thing in the morning. When the pain appears later in the day, eating food tends to reduce it.
It can be caused by several things, including the following:
Helicobacter Pylori the bacterium is believed to be responsible for about 60 percent of stomach ulcers and at least 90 percent of duodenal ulcers.
Certain Medications include aspirin or clopidogrel, which are taken regularly to help prevent a heart attack or stroke, and arthritis medications. Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are believed to cause about two-fifths of stomach ulcers.
Cancer Stomach cancer can present as an ulcer, especially in older people.
Doctors follow the symptoms of a stomach ulcer by asking questions about what the pain feels like, where and when it occurs, and how frequent and long it has been. This process helps in examining whether or not a stomach ulcer developed. Your doctor may also order a stool test or a breath test to find out if the stomach ulcer is caused by H. pylori bacteria. If there are more serious symptoms, such as bleeding, your doctor may require more tests, which may include:
Endoscopy: A camera is inserted into the end of a long, thin, flexible tube to view the lining of the intestine. A biopsy can also be taken.
Barium Enema: This is a thick liquid that allows x-rays of the intestine to be taken. If there are more serious symptoms, such as bleeding, doctors may order more tests.
It is now known that special diets have very little impact on preventing or treating stomach ulcers. Treatment options may include:
Medications including antibiotics, to destroy the H. pylori colony and medications to help speed up the healing process. Different drugs must be used in combination; some of the side effects can include diarrhea and skin rashes. Resistance to some of these antibiotics is becoming more common
Subsequent breath tests these are used to make sure the H. pylori infection has been successfully treated
Changes to existing medications the doses of arthritis medications, aspirin, or other anti-inflammatory medications may be slightly modified to reduce the effects that contribute.
Reduce acid tablets are available to reduce the acid content in gastric juices.
Lifestyle modifications including quitting smoking, as smoking lowers the stomach's natural defenses and impairs the healing process
When To See a Doctor?
Anyone who thinks they may have an ulcer in their stomach should consult their doctor. Any stomach symptoms that last for more than a few days or keep happening need evaluation and treatmen. It is not common, but it is especially important to get medical attention if there could have been an ulcer complication. A slow-bleeding ulcer can be signaled by feeling anemic, such as being tired and breathless. More serious bleeding is an urgent medical problem and can be signaled if blood is vomited or stools are black and sticky. Perforation a hole in the stomach is also an emergency. Without quick treatment, the wall of the stomach can get infected. Sudden belly pain that gets worse can signal perforation, and any signs of being very unwell with infection need treatment as soon as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do stomach ulcers feel?
A searing or shooting pain in the middle of the stomach is the most typical sign of a stomach ulcer (abdomen). But they aren't always painful, and some people may experience other symptoms, such as indigestion, heartburn, and discomfort.
2. Where is the pain from the ulcer located?
Abdominal discomfort is the most common symptom of peptic ulcers. The pain is usually found in the upper middle abdomen, above the navel, and below the breastbone. The pain from the ulcer can feel like burning or gnawing, and it can reach the back.
3. What drink is good for ulcers?
Bilberry and bilberry extract can also help fight H. pylori. You can drink cranberry juice, eat cranberries, or take cranberry supplements. There is no specific amount of consumption associated with relief.
4. What if you ignore an ulcer?
Stomach ulcers can cause bleeding from the ulcer, which can lead to anemia if left untreated. The bleeding may appear as black stools.
5. How do you know if an ulcer is bleeding?
An ulcer that bleeds profusely can cause black, sticky stools. Blood in the stool is dark crimson or maroon in color vomit that was red and had the consistency of coffee grounds.
6. Are Stomach Ulcers Caused By Stress?
Stress ulcers develop out of nowhere, generally as a result of physical exertion. Some acidic meals, as well as physical stress, such as the stress of a major accident or infection, can aggravate ulcers. This might be because stress raises stomach acid levels.
7. How is a stomach ulcer detected?
The only way your doctor can tell for sure if you have an ulcer is by looking. They may utilize a series of X-rays or an endoscopic exam. This test allows them to pass a thin, flexible tube down the throat into the stomach and small intestine.