When To Seek Medical Advice
You should visit your GP if you think you may have a stomach ulcer.
Seek urgent medical advice if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- vomiting blood the blood can appear bright red or have a dark brown, grainy appearance, similar to coffee grounds
- passing dark, sticky, tar-like stools
- a sudden, sharp pain in your tummy that gets steadily worse
These could be a sign of a serious complication, such as internal bleeding.
Signs Of A Stomach Ulcer
Are you dealing with a burning pain in your stomach that is accompanied by bloating, lack of appetite, and heartburn? If so, you could be dealing with a peptic ulcer. Peptic ulcers are sores that develop within the lining of the stomach, causing a wide range of painful and unpleasant symptoms. It may be time to see your gastroenterologist if you notice these telltale symptoms of a stomach ulcer:
- A dull, aching, or burning sensation in the center of your stomach that may feel worse when empty and may be alleviated by eating or drinking
- Feeling full easily
- Dark stools
You must see a gastroenterologist if you are dealing with any of the symptoms above. Ignoring a stomach ulcer is a bad idea, as this problem requires treatment. Leaving a stomach ulcer untreated can make the problem worse. If ulcers bleed this can have serious complications so its important to see a gastroenterologist as soon as possible for an evaluation.
Symptoms Of Ulcer Gastric
The symptoms of small gastric or peptic ulcers may not cause discomfort, and may heal spontaneously, however patients refer to causing symptoms:
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- Vomiting which in some cases can be bloody.
- Dyspepsia .
- Anemia, black and sticky stools with blood from hemorrhagic ulcers.
- Intolerance to fats, condiments, spicy, hot foods.
- Problems drinking the usual amount of liquid.
- Pains in the left hypochondrium that wake up at night.
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Tenderness Of The Stomach
Having developed a bleeding stomach ulcer, the person may feel a little tenderness over the area where the ulcer is located, say the belly. When the condition is taken to the doctor where examination on the point of tenderness is performed, the focal location of the bleeding ulcer will be identified.
The analysis may also support an indication that based on the waste matter discharged, it does originate in the stomach. Rectal bleeding can be ruled out based on the occult blood that is identified in the feces through laboratory tests performed.
The victim may test positive for anemia due to loss of blood resulting from possibly a heavily bleeding ulcer. The doctors usually gather the results paper together and finally tell the victim that the pain, fatigue, and tiresome feeling is a result of a bleeding ulcer.
How Are Peptic Ulcers Diagnosed
To look for peptic ulcers, doctors may:
- Order an upper gastrointestinal series. These X-rays of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum let the doctor get a close look at the gastrointestinal tract. A person drinks a liquid called barium while getting the X-ray. If theres an ulcer, it should be outlined on the X-ray.
- Do an upper endoscopy . The patient is sedated for this procedure. Then, the doctor puts an a small, flexible tube with a tiny camera on the end down the throat and into the stomach and duodenum. The doctors can see the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum to check for possible ulcers, inflammation, or food allergies. The doctor also can do tissue tests to check for H. pyloriIf there’s any sign of inflammation, the doctor will test for H. pylori. This test is important because treatment for ulcers caused by H. pylori differs from treatment for those caused by NSAIDs.
To look for H. pylori, doctors can do:
- tissue tests during an endoscopy
- stool tests to look for H. pylori antigens. Testing stool is becoming more common, as some doctors think they’re more accurate than blood tests.
- breath tests, which can find carbon broken down by H. pylori after the patient drinks a solution. Breath tests are mostly done in adults.
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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.
What Are The Complications Of Peptic Ulcers
Ulcers can cause serious problems if you dont get treatment.
The most common problems include:
- Bleeding. As an ulcer wears away the muscles of the stomach or duodenal wall, blood vessels may be hurt. This causes bleeding.
- Hole . Sometimes an ulcer makes a hole in the wall of your stomach or duodenum. When this happens, bacteria and partly digested food can get in. This causes infection and redness or swelling .
- Narrowing and blockage . Ulcers that are found where the duodenum joins the stomach can cause swelling and scarring. This can narrow or even block the opening to the duodenum. Food cant leave your stomach and go into your small intestine. This causes vomiting. You cant eat properly.
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What Causes Peptic Ulcers
Ulcers form when digestive juices damage the walls of the stomach or small intestine. If the mucus layer gets too thin or your stomach makes too much acid, your gut will feel it. The two major causes are:
- Bacteria. Itâs called Helicobacter pylori , and as many as half of us carry it. Most people infected with H. pylori do not get ulcers. But in others, it can raise the amount of acid, break down the protective mucus layer, and irritate the digestive tract. Experts arenât sure how H. pylori infection spreads. They think it may pass from person to person through close contact, like kissing. You may also get it from unclean food and water.
- Certain pain relievers. If youâve been taking aspirin often and for a long time, youâre more likely to get a peptic ulcer. The same is true for other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs . They include ibuprofen and naproxen. NSAIDs block your body from making a chemical that helps protect the inner walls of your stomach and small intestine from stomach acid. Other types of pain meds, such as acetaminophen, wonât lead to peptic ulcers.
- Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol also can make you more likely to get ulcers. Stress and eating a lot of spicy food donât cause ulcers, as experts once thought. But they can make ulcers worse and harder to treat.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Peptic Ulcer
Youâll most likely feel a burning pain or discomfort between your belly button and breastbone. You might especially notice it on an empty stomach — such as between meals or at night. The pain may stop for a little while if you eat or take an antacid, but then return. The pain can last for a few minutes or a few hours, and may come and go for many days or weeks.
Other symptoms may include:
Small ulcers may not cause any symptoms. But if you notice any of these signs, talk to your doctor.
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What Causes A Peptic Ulcer
Causes of peptic ulcers include
- long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , such as aspirin and ibuprofen
- an infection with the bacteria Helicobacter pylori
- rare cancerous and noncancerous tumors in the stomach, duodenum, or pancreasknown as Zollinger-Ellison syndrome
Sometimes peptic ulcers are caused by both NSAIDs and H. pylori.
Fainting Or Passing Out
After sitting or lying down for a long amount of time, the person who tries to stand up may experience lightheadedness which may lead to fainting. This happens because the body doesnât pump enough blood to the brain as much as necessary.
A display of faintness during situations like standing or sitting after prolonged lying down in a patient with stomach ulcer can be an indication of bleeding. With increased blood loss, the person may become anemic. The individual will usually feel weak and sleepy most of the day. It makes them feel exhausted as well.
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 treatment.
A slow-bleeding ulcer can be signaled by symptoms of anemia, such as being tired and breathless. More serious bleeding is an urgent medical problem and can be signaled if blood is vomited up, or stools are black and sticky.
Perforation, or a hole in the stomach, is also an emergency. Without quick treatment, the wall of the stomach can become infected. Sudden stomach pain that gets worse can indicate perforation, and any signs of being very unwell with infection need treatment as soon as possible.
How Is A Peptic Ulcer Treated
Some peptic ulcers heal on their own. But if you donât treat them, the ulcers tend to come back.
They can erode the blood vessel wall in your stomach or small intestine. The ulcers also can eat a hole through the lining and get infected. Or they can cause swelling, which may block food from moving from your stomach into your small intestine.
If H. pylori is the culprit, your doctor may prescribe a mix of antibiotics to kill it. If aspirin and other NSAIDs are behind the ulcer, you may need to cut down on them, stop taking them altogether, or switch to another pain reliever.
Your doctor may also give you antacids to fight stomach acid, or prescribe medicine to lessen the acid your body makes. Prescription drugs called cytoprotective agents can help protect the lining of the stomach or small intestine so the ulcer can heal.
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How Do You Know If Your Ulcer Is Healed
A pepticulcer can develop on the stomach lining orfirst part of the intestine . A number of treatmentoptions are available to soothe and heal the open sore, and this is usually dependenton the underlying cause. Fortunately, the disease is curable in most cases . The next question, how do youknow if it is healed completely?
How Can I Be Sure Its An Ulcer
The only way to be sure an ulcer is causing your discomfort is with a medical diagnosis. We will evaluate your medical history and conduct a thorough physical examination.
To determine the root cause of your ulcer, we may run blood, stool, or breath tests. These tests are designed to look for signs of helicobacter pylori, the bacteria linked to ulcers.
Depending on your unique symptoms, we may also order an endoscopy. During an endoscopy, we insert a tube with a tiny camera down your throat and into your stomach to take pictures of any potential damage and collect tissue samples for analysis.
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What Are The Possible Complications
An untreated ulcer that swells or scars can block your digestive tract. It can also perforate your stomach or small intestine, infecting your abdominal cavity. That causes a condition known as peritonitis.
A bleeding ulcer can lead to anemia, bloody vomit, or bloody stools. A bleeding ulcer usually results in a hospital stay. Severe internal bleeding is life-threatening. Perforation or serious bleeding may require surgical intervention.
How Do Nsaids Cause A Peptic Ulcer
To understand how NSAIDs cause peptic ulcer disease, it is important to understand how NSAIDs work. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs reduce pain, fever, and inflammation, or swelling.
Everyone has two enzymes that produce chemicals in your bodys cells that promote pain, inflammation, and fever. NSAIDs work by blocking or reducing the amount of these enzymes that your body makes. However, one of the enzymes also produces another type of chemical that protects the stomach lining from stomach acid and helps control bleeding. When NSAIDs block or reduce the amount of this enzyme in your body, they also increase your chance of developing a peptic ulcer.
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What Tests Diagnose A Peptic Ulcer
To confirm a person has an ulcer a diagnostic imaging test will usually be ordered. The two most widely used tests are:
- Upper GI series : This is a type of X-ray. The patient is given a chalky liquid to drink that increases the contrast on the X-ray, making certain features easier to see. Because this liquid contains barium, this test is sometimes called a barium swallow.
- Endoscopy : An endoscope is a thin, flexible tube with a tiny camera at the end. The patient is given a mild sedative, and then the tube is passed through the mouth into the stomach. The doctor can see the lining of the stomach to diagnose a peptic ulcer. Tiny samples of the tissue will be taken , which are examined under a microscope.
If a diagnostic imaging test reveals an ulcer, the patient will most likely have a test to see if H pylori bacteria are present.
- It is important to be certain about this, because treatment of the H pylori is likely to heal the ulcer.
- Ulcers caused by H pylori are treated differently than ulcers caused by medications.
Three types of tests are available to detect H pylori.
What Is An Ulcer
Your stomach has digestive juices that contain hydrochloric acid and other enzymes. The stomach lining is coated with mucus to withstand the acidity without being damaged. Sometimes the lining of your stomach wears down due to the action of bacteria and other factors. When this happens, the digestive juices damage the stomach lining causing a sore known as an ulcer.
An ulcer is a sore that occurs in the inner lining of the stomach or upper small intestine, also called the duodenum. When it is in the stomach, it is a gastric ulcer. If it is in the duodenum, then it is called a duodenal ulcer. They are both types of peptic ulcer.
For many years, it was thought that ulcers were caused by stress, alcohol, or spicy food. However, modern research shows they are usually caused by a specific bacterial infection in the stomach and upper intestine, certain medicines, and smoking.
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Upper Gastrointestinal Endoscopy And Biopsy
In an upper GI endoscopy, a gastroenterologist, surgeon, or other trained health care professional uses an endoscope to see inside your upper GI tract. This procedure takes place at a hospital or an outpatient center.
An intravenous needle will be placed in your arm to provide a sedative. Sedatives help you stay relaxed and comfortable during the procedure. In some cases, the procedure can be performed without sedation. You will be given a liquid anesthetic to gargle or spray anesthetic on the back of your throat. The doctor will carefully feed the endoscope down your esophagus and into your stomach and duodenum. A small camera mounted on the endoscope sends a video image to a monitor, allowing close examination of the lining of your upper GI tract. The endoscope pumps air into your stomach and duodenum, making them easier to see.
The doctor may perform a biopsy with the endoscope by taking a small piece of tissue from the lining of your esophagus. You wont feel the biopsy. A pathologist examines the tissue in a lab.
How Do You Know That Your Ulceris Healed
Some peoplewith peptic ulcers may not seek medical help until the symptoms become verybothersome. The symptoms may come and go. Interestingly, sometimes the diseaseheals on its own. But this doesnt mean that you can ignore it! Treatment isnecessary even though the disease hasnt caused any symptoms.
Thedisease may turn into serious if left untreated. Even with treatment, sometimesit returns. In worse scenario, the disease becomes resistant or fails to heal.
Thefollowing are some reasons that may lead to a refractory ulcer :
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