What Exactly Are Stomach Ulcersand How Do You Get One
An ulcer is a break in the lining of the stomach, David Greenwald, MD, a professor of medicine and gastroenterology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York tells Health. The best way to imagine this, he says, is to picture the lining of your stomach as the inside of your cheekpink and moist. An ulcer is a crack or sore in that lining.
These stomach ulcersalso called peptic ulcershappen when the acids that help you digest food damage the lining of your stomach or duodenum , according to the US National Library of Medicine . That acid erosion is caused by a few different things, but 90% of all stomach ulcers can be boiled down to two causes: An infection of the bacteria Helicobacter pylori and anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen.
As far as stress goes, however, saying its the cause of ulcers is a myth, says Dr. Greenwald. At least, thats untrue when were talking emotional stress. Emotional stress doesnt cause ulcers, per se. it does lead people to have upset stomach, says Dr. Greenwald. However, physiological stress can lead to ulcer formation, according to Dr. Greenwald. Stress, howeveralong with spicy foodscan make ulcers worse, per the USNLM.
How Are Esophageal Ulcers Caused
The main causes of esophageal ulcers are:
Exposure to stomach acid: This causes chronic inflammation and irritation of the esophagus, allowing ulcers to develop. Stomach acid exposure most often occurs in people with other gastrointestinal conditions. These can include hiatal hernias and GERD, or gastrointestinal reflux disease, more commonly referred to, as severe heartburn.
Medications: Certain drugs, including aspirin, ibuprofen, bisphosphonates, and some antibiotics, can cause esophagitis, or inflammation of the esophagus, and esophageal ulcers.
Infection: Ulcers caused by infection are less common, but the fungal infection known as candida, herpes, and the human papillomavirus have all been linked to esophageal ulcers.
Caustic injury: Esophageal ulcers may be caused by ingesting a corrosive substance. This type of injury mostly affects children, but it can also occur in adults who experience psychosis, suicidal tendencies, or who are abusing alcohol.
Certain types of gastric surgery or foreign bodies can also cause esophageal ulcers.
Early intervention is key to preventing complications from esophageal ulcers.
In cases of acid reflux, treatment may include:
- Medication, such as antacids, H-2-receptor blockers, and proton pump inhibitors .
- Dietary and lifestyle changes, to aid digestion.
- Surgery, for severe cases. Types of surgeries include to tighten the LES valve near the top of the stomach or to insert a magnetic device to help the LES valve function.
What To Do If You Have Stomach Cancer Or Ulcer Symptoms
- If you have burning pain in your upper stomach that is relieved by eating or taking antacids, call a health-care professional for an appointment. Dont assume you have an ulcer. Certain other conditions can cause similar symptoms.
- If you vomit blood or have other signs of gastrointestinal bleeding, go to an emergency department right away. Peptic ulcers can cause massive bleeding, which requires blood transfusion or surgery.
- Severe abdominal pain suggests perforation or tearing of an ulcer. This is an emergency that may require surgery to fix a hole in your stomach.
- Vomiting and abdominal pain also can be a sign of an obstruction, another complication of peptic ulcers. This also may require emergency surgery.
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How To Test For Stomach Ulcers
If your doctor thinks you may have a stomach ulcer, the initial tests will include some blood tests. These tests will help to check whether you have become anaemic because of any bleeding from the ulcer. The blood test will also check to see that your liver and pancreas are working properly.
The main tests that are then used to diagnose a stomach ulcer are as follows:
What Is A Peptic Ulcer
A peptic ulcer is a sore in your stomach or small intestine. It happens when the juices that help break down food damage the lining of your stomach or intestine. Ulcers usually affect people who are 25 to 64 years of age.
The two main causes are a germ called Helicobacter pylori and anti-inflammatory pain medicines like aspirin, ibuprofen , and naproxen . Steroids and medicines for osteoporosis also may cause ulcers.
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You Have Heartburn At Most Meals
If you find yourself experiencing frequent heartburn, regardless of what you eat, an ulcer may be responsible. Many patients with ulcers describe feeling very intense chest pain, which often causes them to burp or hiccup more than usual after eating. In many cases, a simple over-the-counter antacid can be taken to temporarily alleviate some of the pain and gassiness, but if it persists day after day, its likely something more than a regular case of heartburn.
Signs You May Have An Ulcer
Did you know that stomach ulcers also called peptic ulcers affect at least 1 in 10 Americans over the course of their lives? And while stomach ulcers can be treated easily when caught early, lack of medical care can lead to serious complications.
Understanding the signs of stomach ulcers is important in helping you get the treatment you need. At Prima Medicine in Fairfax and South Riding, Virginia, our care team has the experience and knowledge to diagnose and treat stomach ulcers. Weve curated this guide to help you recognize the warning signs of an ulcer and understand what you can do about it.
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How Do You Treat Stress Ulcers
Mindfulness could be part of a protocol to help heal the ulcerated tissue and improve symptoms such as bloating and abdominal pain. Women participating in an 8-week course where they practiced mindfulness-based stress reduction experienced a 26.4% reduction in their symptoms and when researchers followed-up after 3 months, these same women had now experienced a 38.2% reduction in symptoms. MBSR has also been shown to stabilize cortisol rhythms which fluctuate throughout a 24-hour period, otherwise known as the stress hormone.
Diet can play a large role as well with certain foods demonstrating ulcer-fighting properties, mostly in animal studies. S-methylmethionine is a compound that can be found in abundance in cabbage and has been shown to have anti-ulcerogenic properties. Some research has demonstrated an ability to accelerate the healing of ulcers, and in another study where conventional treatment failed, -86% of recruited patients found relief from pain within two weeks of starting to take cabbage juice.
How To Treat Stomach Ulcers
It is important to get treatment for a stomach ulcer because they can worsen if ignored. Peptic ulcers can lead to internal bleeding, a perforation in your stomach, an obstruction in your digestive tract, or even stomach cancer.
If you experience sharp, sudden stomach pain that doesnt go away trouble breathing unexplained weight loss bloody, dark, or tarry stools or are vomiting blood or what looks like coffee grounds, you should see a doctor immediately. Any of these symptoms could indicate that the ulcer has caused a more serious problem.
A gastroenterologist at Digestive Health Centers can help diagnose and treat peptic ulcers. They can use endoscopic equipment to confirm a diagnosis of peptic ulcers and to determine your best course of treatment. While performing an upper endoscopy, your physician can see irregularities in the lining of your stomach and even take samples to test for H. pylori infection.
Heliobacter pylori can be successfully treated with antibiotics, and an acid reducer may also be prescribed to allow the ulcers to heal. Acetaminophen is a pain reliever that can be used in place of NSAIDs if your ulcers are caused by an overuse of pain relievers.
If you choose to seek treatment at Digestive Health Centers, a board certified, fellowship-trained gastroenterologist can help you repair your stomach and ease the pain caused by ulcers. Contact us today to begin your recovery!
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Causes Of Duodenal Ulcers
Your stomach makes a strong acid that kills germs and helps you digest food. To protect themselves against this acid, cells of the stomach and duodenum make a barrier from mucus. If this barrier is damaged, an ulcer can form.
The main cause of this damage is infection with bacteria called Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori. The bacteria can cause the lining of your duodenum to become inflamed and an ulcer can form.
Some medications can also cause a duodenal ulcer, particularly anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and aspirin. Rarely, other medicines or medical conditions might cause an ulcer.
Itâs possible that you are more likely to get a duodenal ulcer if you smoke, drink a lot of alcohol or you are stressed, but these things are less important than infection with H. pylori.
Signs That You May Have A Stomach Ulcer
A number of symptoms are associated with stomach ulcers, says the website Healthline. The severity of the symptoms depends on the severity of the ulcer. The most common symptom is a burning sensation or pain in the middle of your abdomen between your chest and belly button. Typically, the pain is more intense when your stomach is empty, can last for a few minutes to several hours, and comes and goes for several days, weeks or months.
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What Does A Stress Stomach Ulcer Feel Like
The most common 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 signs and symptoms of ulcers include: dull pain in the stomach.
Dont Ignore Your Ulcer
There are lots of good reasons to get help. If you put off treatment, your ulcer may start to block food from moving smoothly through your digestive system. You may often throw up or feel too full to eat. Over time, your ulcer could make a hole through your stomach lining and put you at risk of a severe infection. An ulcer that bleeds can also land you in the hospital.
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How Can I Tell If I Have A Stomach Ulcer
Do you often have a dull or burning pain in your stomach that lasts anywhere from a few minutes to several hours? Does the pain seem to flare up when your stomach is empty? Have you been taking Advil, Aleve or aspirin for a long time? If your answer to these questions is yes, you might have a peptic ulcer.
At Westchester Health, we have a number of patients who come to us wanting to know if the pain theyre feeling might be an ulcer, and if so, is there is anything they can do to relieve that pain. To help them, and anyone else whos experiencing this kind of discomfort, understand stomach ulcers, what causes them and what can be done to reverse the condition, we offer this informational blog.
Is Your Persistent Stomach Pain An Ulcer
Its normal to have a stomachache every now and then. Maybe you ate something that isnt agreeing with you or youre having a stressful day. These run-of-the-mill pains usually resolve on their own or with basic treatment.
But if you experience daily abdominal pain, or pain that comes and goes frequently, you could have a more serious problem, such as a peptic ulcer.
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What Does A Stomach Ulcer Feel Like
Stomach ulcer pain usually begins in the upper-middle parts of the abdomen, above the belly button, and below the breastbone. Heartburn covers a broader area and tends to be higher in the chest. The pain is often very similar to heartburn and may feel like burning or gnawing that may go through to the back. The onset of the pain may occur several hours after a meal when the stomach is empty.
You could have heartburn and ulcer pain at the same time. Pain may vary from a few minutes to several hours. Usually, people complain that their heartburn is worse at night. It can be relieved with foods, antacids, or even vomiting. If you suspect you have a stomach ulcer, seek medical attention as soon as possible to prevent any complications. These symptoms could only worsen with time if your ulcer goes untreated. Getting these symptoms diagnosed by a trained gastroenterologist for timely treatment is crucial for your overall health.
What Are The Symptoms Of Peptic Ulcers
Each persons symptoms may vary. In some cases ulcers dont cause any symptoms.
The most common ulcer symptom is a dull or burning pain in your belly between your breastbone and your belly button . This pain often occurs around meal times and may wake you up at night. It can last from a few minutes to a few hours.
Less common ulcer symptoms may include:
- Feeling full after eating a small amount of food
- Bloody or black stool
Peptic ulcer symptoms may look like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider to be sure.
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Will Surgery Cure A Peptic Ulcer
Medical therapy works in most people with peptic ulcers. Sometimes, medical therapy does not work, or a person can’t take the therapy for some reason. Surgery is an alternative to medical therapy for these people.
Surgical operations often used in peptic ulcers include the following:
- Vagotomy: Cutting the vagus nerve, which transmits messages from the brain to the stomach, can reduce acid secretion. However, this can also interfere with other functions of the stomach. A newer operation cuts only the part of the nerve that affects acid secretion.
- Antrectomy: This is often done in conjunction with a vagotomy. It involves removing the lower part of the stomach . This part of the stomach produces a hormone that increases production of stomach acid. Adjacent parts of the stomach may also be removed.
- Pyloroplasty: This procedure also is sometimes done with vagotomy. It enlarges the opening between the stomach and duodenum to encourage passage of partially digested food. Once the food has passed, acid production normally stops.
- Tying off an artery: If bleeding is a problem, cutting off the blood supply to the ulcer can stop the bleeding.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Peptic Ulcer Does It Cause Pain
Ulcers do not always cause symptoms. Sometimes, a serious complication such as bleeding or a sudden, bad upper abdominal pain is the first sign of an ulcer.
The most common symptom of peptic ulcers is abdominal pain.
- The pain is usually in the upper middle part of the abdomen, above the belly button and below the breastbone.
- The ulcer pain can feel like burning, or gnawing, and it may go through to the back.
- Pain often comes several hours after a meal when the stomach is empty.
- The pain is often worse at night and early morning.
- It can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.
- The ulcer pain may be relieved by food, antacids, or vomiting.
Other symptoms of peptic ulcers include the following:
- Loss of appetite
Severe ulcers may cause bleeding in the stomach or duodenum. Bleeding is sometimes the only symptom of an ulcer. This bleeding can be fast or slow. Fast bleeding reveals itself in one of the following ways:
- Vomiting of blood or dark material that looks something like coffee grounds: This is an emergency and warrants an immediate visit to an emergency department.
- Blood in the stool or black, tarry, sticky-looking stools
Slow bleeding is often more difficult to detect, because it has no dramatic symptoms.
- The usual result is low blood cell count .
- The symptoms of anemia are tiredness , lack of energy , weakness, rapid heartbeat , and pale skin .
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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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Is Duodenal Ulcer Better With Food
The pain associated with duodenal ulcers improves after meals, while the pain associated with gastric ulcers generally intensifies after meals. Other common signs and symptoms include epigastric abdominal pain, bloating, nausea and vomiting, and weight gain due to improved symptoms post meals.
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When To See The Doctor
Peptic ulcers will get worse if theyre not treated, so contact your doctor if you have symptoms or any signs that you could have one. Unfortunately, a lot of the time the way people find out they have an ulcer is by developing bleedstheyre taking a lot of aspirin or NSAIDS and they either start vomiting blood or have black tarry stool, says Marcus.
Your doctor may be able to diagnose a peptic ulcer by talking with you about your symptoms. Be sure to disclose the frequency of NSAID use.
However, some tests are usually used to confirm the diagnosis. For instance, to see if you have an H. pylori infection, your doctor will test your blood, breath or stool. They may also look inside your stomach and duodenum by doing an endoscopy or X-ray. An endoscopy is a procedure where a lighted tube is inserted through the throat and into the stomach to check for abnormalities.