Common Warning Signs Of Ulcers
Ulcers are a common medical issue that affects about one in ten people in America. They occur when acid in the digestive tract eats away at the inner surface of the esophagus, stomach or small intestine. The acid can create a painful open sore that may bleed. You can get them anywhere on your body for any reason, but the most common form of ulcers occur in your stomach.
Although there is no single cause for an ulcer, many factors can increase your risk of stomach ulcers including painkillers, excessive drinking of alcohol and smoking tobacco. Luckily, ulcers are easy to treat once you recognize the symptoms of them. Here are five common signs of a stomach ulcer:
Abdominal Pain: A burning sensation may occur in your stomach. The pain will come and go in waves and is often accompanied by bloating. Many may confuse this feeling with acid reflux or other similar diseases. If the abdominal pain starts after you eat, keeps you up at night, and lasts a prolonged period it might be an ulcer.
Nausea: Due to the imbalance in your digestive system, mild to severe nausea may occur, either first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, or after eating. Because of nausea that will occur, rapid weight loss also comes in conjunction with it as well.
Bloating: A feeling of heaviness and fullness can occur in the stomach, usually the same feeling you get after drinking a full glass of water.
When To See A Healthcare Provider/go To The Hospital
You may feel relief with an antacid, but you should not ignore symptoms of a peptic ulcer. If you have persistent symptoms for longer than a week, it is best to see your healthcare provider. He or she will determine whether you need prescription medications and whether you have complications, such as bleeding or anemia.
Make an appointment with your healthcare provider if you have:
- Pain that radiates to the back
- Pain that doesn’t go away when you take medication
- Unintended weight loss
- Vomiting blood
- Sudden, severe pain in the abdominal area
- Loss of consciousness
How Your Digestive System Processes Alcohol
Your stomach does not treat alcohol as it would a traditional nutrient found in food. Your body prioritizes eliminating alcohol from your system ahead of other vital nutrients, including proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Unlike traditional nutrients, alcohol is absorbed directly into the bloodstream. When ingested, alcohol can prevent your stomach from properly absorbing vital nutrients.
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What Are The Complications Of Gastritis
If left untreated, gastritis can lead to serious problems, such as:
- Anemia:H. pylori can cause gastritis or stomach ulcers .that bleed, thereby lowering your red blood counts .
- Pernicious anemia: Autoimmune gastritis can affect how your body absorbs vitamin B12. Youre at risk of pernicious anemia when you dont get enough B12 to make healthy red blood cells.
- Peritonitis: Gastritis can worsen stomach ulcers. Ulcers that break through the stomach wall can spill stomach contents into the abdomen. This rupture can spread bacteria, causing a dangerous infection called bacterial transloction or peritonitis. It also can lead to a widespread inflammation called . Sepsis can be fatal.
- Stomach cancer: Gastritis caused by H. pylori and autoimmune disease can cause growths in the stomach lining. These growths increase your risk of stomach cancer.
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The most common stomach ulcer symptom is, not surprisingly, stomach paintypically, a dull, burning sensation in the mid-abdominal area. Because ulcers are literally sores in the lining of the stomach or small bowel, pain classically presents in relation to acid secretion in the intestines, says Rusha Modi, M.D., gastroenterologist and assistant professor of clinical medicine at Keck Medical Center in California. The pain usually peaks between meals and at night, when acid has been secreted into the stomach but theres no food to act as a buffer. Taking antacids can temporarily relieve the pain, but odds are it will keep coming back until the ulcer is treated by a professional.
Because the ulcer is being perpetually doused in acid, stomach pain can often be paired with chronic heartburn and regurgitation . Other symptoms, such as bloating, burping, or feeling perma-full, may not be far behind, says Ravella. If taking an OTC antacid only relieves symptoms temporarily, or they seem to strike no matter what you eat, you may want to discuss this with your physician.
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What Is A Bloated Stomach
A bloated stomach is first and foremost a feeling of tightness, pressure or fullness in your belly. It may or may not be accompanied by a visibly distended abdomen. The feeling can range from mildly uncomfortable to intensely painful. It usually goes away after a while, but for some people, its a recurring problem. Digestive issues and hormone fluctuations can cause cyclical bloating. If your bloated stomach doesnt go away, you should seek medical care to determine the cause.
Gas In The Lower Abdomen
Below are some potential causes of gas in the lower abdomen.
A person experiencing symptoms of gas in the lower part of their belly or abdomen may be experiencing gas from fermentation.
Stomach acid helps to break down food and pass it on to the intestines. The intestines break down the food even further in a process that sometimes releases gases. These gases either make their way to the stomach and leave the body as a burp or travel through the intestines and leave the body as flatulence.
Some foods may produce gas more than others. The list some common foods that may cause gas, including:
- greens, such as kale, cabbage, and Brussel sprouts
- vegetables, such as onions, cauliflower, and broccoli
- beans, including black, pinto, and kidney beans
- dairy products, such as cheese, yogurt, and ice cream
- high fiber foods, such as whole grains and fruits
- sugar substitutes and sweeteners, such as sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol
Irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome is an umbrella term for a group of digestive symptoms that can cause pain, discomfort, and changes in bowel movements.
A person with IBS may experience an excessive amount of intestinal gas. This excess gas may lead to abdominal pain, bloating, and flatulence. Other possible symptoms of IBS include:
In extreme cases, the small intestine may be unable to absorb sufficient nutrients from food. This may lead to complications, such as weight loss and anemia.
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How To Prevent Treat Ulcers
To lower your risk of ulcers, follow the recommended-use instructions on products containing NSAIDs, Abdi said. These typically note that the medication shouldnt be taken for longer than 10 to 14 days. The longer you take it and the higher dose that you take it outside of the labeled use, youre at greater risk for developing complications, she said.
Switching to a lower-risk pain reliever, such as Tylenol, or acetaminophen, may also be helpful, experts said. But although acetaminophen treats pain, it isnt an anti-inflammatory, and taking too much can cause liver damage.
Experts recommended that people who use NSAIDs to help manage chronic pain talk with their health-care provider, rather than self-medicate. Keep in mind that there isnt a specific dosage or use period that is considered universally safe, Stevoff said.
Everybodys different, he said. For some people, they can take massive doses of these things and never have a problem. Other people can take relatively small amounts and get an ulcer right away.
If your treatment requires taking NSAIDs over a long period, your doctor may also prescribe a common acid-reducing medication known as proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, experts said. Some PPIs, such as Prilosec and Nexium, are over-the-counter medicines.
As I have learned, NSAIDs have side effects and ignoring their potential impact isnt a good idea, she . I am exhibit A.
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Treating Helicobacter Pylori Infection
If your stomach ulcer’s caused by a Helicobacter pylori bacterial infection, you’ll be given:
- a course of antibiotics
- a medication called a proton pump inhibitor
This is also recommended if it’s thought your stomach ulcer’s caused by a combination of an H. pylori infection and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs .
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What Are The Symptoms Of Any Complications
Stomach ulcers can cause various complications but these are much less common now because of more effective treatments. However, complications can be very serious and include:
Bleeding from the ulcer
- This can range from a trickle to a life-threatening bleed.
- If there is sudden heavy bleeding then this will cause you to vomit blood and make you feel very faint.
- Less sudden bleeding may cause you to vomit and the vomit looks coffee-coloured because the stomach acid has partly broken down the blood.
- A more gradual trickle of blood will pass through your gut and cause your stools to look very dark in colour or even black .
PerforationThis is the term used to describe the ulcer having gone all the way through the wall of the stomach. Food and acid in the stomach then leak out of the stomach. This usually causes severe pain and makes you very unwell. Stomach perforation is a medical emergency and needs hospital treatment as soon as possible.
Stomach blockageThis is now rare. An ulcer at the end of the stomach can cause the outlet of the stomach to narrow and cause an obstruction. This can cause frequent severe vomiting.
Can Peptic Ulcers Be Prevented
Regular use of NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal problems and bleeding in some children. Acetaminophen does not cause stomach ulcers and is a good alternative to NSAIDs for most childhood conditions.
Alcohol and smoking can make an ulcer more likely. Help your child avoid coffee, tea, sodas, and foods that contain caffeine, which can increase acid in the stomach and may make an ulcer worse.
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How Common Are Stomach Ulcers
It’s not known exactly how common stomach ulcers are. They have become much less common since the 1980s because of much more effective treatments. So people with stomach ulcers now usually get better much more quickly.
The term ‘peptic ulcer’ is used to describe ulcers that are caused by too much acid in the stomach. This includes stomach ulcers and also ulcers in the first part of the gut known as the duodenum. Stomach ulcers are less common than duodenal ulcers.
Bleeding Ulcers Symptoms And Causes
Bleeding ulcers are a big deal. Often having endoscopy is diagnostic and therapeutic. A gastroenterologist can use a fiberoptic camera to view the inside of the stomach and duodenum, searching for a source of bleeding.
Symptoms of a bleeding ulcer include:
- Abdominal discomfort after eating
- Upper abdominal burning or hunger pain 1 to 3 hours after eating or in the middle of the night
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Can Peptic Ulcer Disease Be Prevented Or Avoided
Stress and spicy foods dont cause ulcers. However, they can make them worse. Smoking and alcohol can cause a peptic ulcer. Men should limit alcohol to no more than 2 drinks per day. Women should have no more than 1 drink per day. Talk to your doctor if you take aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen regularly.
What Are Peptic Ulcers
A peptic ulcer is a sore in the wall of the gastrointestinal tract caused by stomach acid. Peptic ulcers typically result from inflammation caused by infection with a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori or medicines, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs .
Peptic ulcers can form in the stomach or the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine.
The stomach produces acid, but its walls are typically coated with a layer of mucus that protects them from erosion. However, those medicines or an H. pylori infection can impair the mucus barrier of protection in the stomach, Dr. Yalamanchili says. This can eventually lead to a sore developing in the lining of the stomach or duodenum. Its not uncommon for gastric and duodenal ulcers to occur at the same time.
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Nsaid Drugs And Stomach Ulcers
A group of painkillers known as NSAIDs carries a risk of stomach ulcers. The two best-known NSAIDs are aspirin and ibuprofen.
The risk of ulcers increases if the drugs are taken in high doses, or regularly for a long time.
Stronger NSAIDs, such as those that need a prescription, are riskier for stomach ulcers than those that can be bought over-the-counter .
People should always check labels and talk to a pharmacist or a doctor about any concerns with using painkillers. They may recommend an alternative such as acetaminophen.
When Should You See A Doctor
You should see a doctor if you continue to have indigestion symptoms despite a few weeks of using an indigestion medicine. You should always see a doctor if you have any of the following:
- Difficulty swallowing .
- Losing weight without dieting.
- Having a lot of pain in your stomach .
- Being sick , especially if there is any blood in the vomit.
- If youre over 55 and get frequent bouts of indigestion.
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You Have Pain Specifically In Your Upper Abdomen
One of the most common ulcer symptoms is a severe pain in the upper abdomen, according to Neil Sengupta, MD, a gastroenterology specialist at the University of Chicago. Ulcers can develop anywhere in the upper digestive track, but Dr. Sengupta says we often think about those occurring in the stomach or small intestine, where we feel pain. This pain usually occurs between the breastbone and belly button, and can bring on a burning, aching, or dull feeling. The sensation may begin as a light, mild pain but often progresses into something more serious as the ulcers develop.
Diagnosis Of A Stomach Ulcer
Diagnosing a stomach ulcer is done using a range of methods, including:
- Endoscopy a thin flexible tube is threaded down the oesophagus into the stomach under light anaesthesia. The endoscope is fitted with a small camera so the physician can see if there is an ulcer.
- Barium meal a chalky liquid is drunk and an x-ray is performed, showing the stomach lining. These tests are less common nowadays, but may be useful where endoscopy is unavailable.
- Biopsy a small tissue sample is taken during an endoscopy and tested in a laboratory. This biopsy should always be done if a gastric ulcer is found.
- C14 breath test this checks for the presence of H. pylori. The bacteria convert urea into carbon dioxide. The test involves swallowing an amount of radioactive carbon and testing the air exhaled from the lungs. A non-radioactive test can be used for children and pregnant women.
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What Are The Complications Of Peptic Ulcers
With modern treatment, people with ulcer disease can lead normal lives without lifestyle changes or dietary restrictions. Cigarettesmokers have been found to have more complications from ulcers and treatment failure.
Eradication of the bacteria H. pylori not only heals ulcers but also prevents the recurrence of ulcer disease.
Patients with ulcers generally function quite comfortably.
Some ulcers probably heal even without medications . Therefore, the major problems resulting from ulcers are related to ulcer complications. Complications include
- obstruction of emptying of the passage of food.
Patients with bleeding ulcers may report
- a sense of light-headedness or ay even pass out upon standing ,
- and vomiting blood . Initial treatment involves rapid replacement of fluids intravenously.
Patients with persistent or severe bleeding may require blood transfusions. An endoscopy is performed to establish the site of bleeding and to stop active ulcer bleeding with the aid of specialized endoscopic instruments.
Duodenum – A peptic ulcer that forms in the narrow outlet from the stomach, it can obstruct the flow of stomach contents into the duodenum. Duodenal ulcers sometimes also may obstruct the flow of intestinal contents.
Patients with obstruction often report
What Causes Peptic Ulcers
In the past, experts thought lifestyle factors such as stress and diet caused ulcers. Today we know that stomach acids and other digestive juices help create ulcers. These fluids burn the linings of your organs.
Causes of peptic ulcers include:
- H. pylori bacteria . Most ulcers are caused by an infection from a bacteria or germ called H. pylori. This bacteria hurts the mucus that protects the lining of your stomach and the first part of your small intestine . Stomach acid then gets through to the lining.
- NSAIDs . These are over-the-counter pain and fever medicines such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Over time they can damage the mucus that protects the lining of your stomach.
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How Do You Treat Ulcers
There are a few things that you can do to relieve the symptoms of stomach ulcers. Avoiding spicy and fatty foods, managing stress, using over-the-counter antacids, and stopping the use of NSAIDs may provide relief. Your doctor may treat your peptic ulcer by prescribing antibiotics, or medications to block or reduce acid production.
Its important to know when you should seek care for stomach pain. Persistent abdominal pain that does not go away can indicate an underlying health problem.
Talk to your doctor if you experience frequent abdominal pain, or abdominal pain that does not go away, if you feel faint or have trouble breathing with abdominal pain, or if you have blood in your vomit or stool.
Your primary care doctor can help determine the best action to take, which may include a referral to a gastroenterologist: a physician that specializes in diagnosing and treating digestive diseases.