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.
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.
When To Seek Help:
It is never too early to seek the advice of a medical doctor. Symptoms may appear little but it is a pot-hole that will someday turn to gully erosion. Gastric cancer should send shivers down the spine of anyone, although not common but this cannot be detected on time except through proper examination at the hospital. The fact remains that cancer is CURABLE when found on time. And if checking the condition of your stomach matters to you, do well to Consult a Doctor on KompleteCare.
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Dull Pain In The Stomach
Dull and burning pain is the most common symptom of an ulcer. The pain is felt anywhere between the belly button and the breastbone. It can also travel out from the middle of the stomach up to the neck, down to the belly button, or through to the back.
Stomach acid helps break down and absorb the food consumed. Excess stomach acid makes the pain worse because it creates painful sores within the stomach.
This kind of pain is often more severewhenever the stomach is empty such as between meals or at night. Sometimes itcan also start a few hours after eating. This pain can last for several minutesto several hours. The burning pain is sometimes made better by eating or aggravatedbetween one and three hours after a meal. This occurs when food can no longerneutralize the acid produced by the stomach.
Taking antacids may help relieve some of the pain but it doesnt help cure the ulcer. The pain will just keep coming back. Eating certain foods can help buffer stomach acid.
Can Peptic Ulcers Be Prevented
Doctors arent sure how H. pylori bacteria spread from person to person. The bacteria have been found in saliva , so kissing may be one way. They also may spread through food, water, or contact with vomit thats infected with the bacteria.
Regular use of NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal problems and bleeding in some people. Acetaminophen does not cause stomach ulcers and is a good alternative to NSAIDs.
As with many infections, washing your hands well and often is an important part of ulcer prevention. This is extra important after you use the bathroom and before you eat. And take good care of your body by exercising regularly and not smoking or drinking.
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How To Prevent Ulcers
Be careful when taking pain relievers.
Patients suffering from arthritis and other medical conditions which cause chronic pain, often take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs for months and weeks to alleviate the swelling and pain. These pain relievers can have a negative effect on the mucus which protects your stomach from acid, increasing your chances of developing peptic ulcers.
These pain relievers include:
- Naproxen sodium
To lower the chances of developing peptic ulcers while taking NSAIDs, it is advisable to take the lowest possible dose to ease your symptoms. Take your medication with food and stop taking it as soon as you dont need it. It is also advisable to avoid drinking alcohol while taking these medications.
How Can I Prevent A Stomach Ulcer From Occurring Or Returning
- Reduce NSAID use, if possible. Consider whether acetaminophen might substitute. If you take NSAIDs for medical reasons, talk to your doctor about reducing your dosage or switching your medication. Your doctor may also prescribe another medicine to take with NSAIDs to protect your stomach lining.
- Reduce other irritants that may contribute to too much stomach acid or erode your stomach lining, including smoking and alcohol use.
- Take an H. pylori breath test to find out if you have an overgrowth of the bacteria.
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What Is The Cause Of Peptic Ulcers
When you eat, your stomach produces hydrochloric acid and an enzyme called pepsin to digest the food.
- The food is partially digested in the stomach and then moves on to the duodenum to continue the process.
- Peptic ulcers occur when the acid and enzyme overcome the defense mechanisms of the gastrointestinal tract and erode the mucosal wall.
- Now it is understood that people with ulcers have an imbalance between acid and pepsin coupled with the digestive tracts inability to protect itself from these harsh substances.
- Research done in the 1980s showed that some ulcers are caused by infection with a bacterium named Helicobacter pylori, usually called H pylori.
- Not everyone who gets an ulcer is infected with H pylori. Aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can cause ulcers if taken regularly.
Some types of medical therapy can contribute to ulcer formation. The following factors can weaken the protective mucosal barrier of the stomach increasing the chances of getting an ulcer and slow the healing of existing ulcers.
- Aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , and newer anti-inflammatory medications
- Radiation therapy:-used for diseases such as cancer
People who take aspirin or other anti-inflammatory medications are at an increased risk even if they do not have H pylori infection.
Are There Foods I Should Avoid If I Have A Stomach Ulcer
Interestingly, there is no specific diet that a person with ulcers needs to follow. The current recommendations are less about the foods you should avoid and more about foods that will help you lessen the risk of developing an ulcer in the first place.
If youve developed a stomach ulcer or are at risk of developing one, you should include more of these foods in your diet:
- Fruits and vegetables that are full of antioxidants that are anti-inflammatory
- Nuts, halibut, and yellowfin tuna, which all have selenium to enhance your ability to heal
- Probiotics that have active bacterial properties, such as yogurt, to improve digestion
- Spinach, oysters, and beef, which contain zinc to help you maintain a healthy immune system
Plenty of water, leafy greens, and fermented probiotic foods have all clinically been shown to help lessen your risk of developing ulcers. During the holiday season, you will want to take additional care of yourself and pay attention to your stress levels. Talk with your doctor about whether adding a probiotic supplement could also help you.
On the other hand, if you have acid reflux in addition to a stomach ulcer, there are foods that may trigger your acid reflux. In these instances, its a good idea to avoid alcohol and coffee, as well as spicy and acidic foods, which could cause your discomfort to increase.
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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 cant 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 Treatments Are There For Ulcers
Your treatment will depend on the cause of your ulcer. For example, if our tests indicate that an infection caused by helicobacter pylori is what created your ulcer, well give you antibiotics to eliminate the bacteria.
Regardless of the cause, medications that help reduce the level of acid in your stomach can help the ulcer heal. And different lifestyle changes can accelerate healing as well, such as eliminating certain foods, abstaining from alcohol, and practicing stress management.
In severe cases, surgery may be required. Your provider at Prima Medicine will work with you to create a treatment plan for your situation.
If you have a stomach ulcer or want to see if you do, we can help. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Prima Medicine today.
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What To Expect When Getting Professional Help On Stomach Ulcer
Questions would be asked and physical examination will be carried out to help guide investigations. Due to its high prevalence, tests are usually ordered for the presence of H. pylori infection which could be done either with blood, stool or a breath test. Other investigations that may be ordered include a barium meal and lastly an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy. The endoscope is a long flexible tube with a camera at its tip that is passed down the individuals throat and into the stomach. It is the one investigation that helps confirm the presence of an ulcer in the stomach. It has the advantage of looking at the entire inner wall of the stomach to locate ulcers and also take samples which are sent for histology to help rule out the dreaded gastric cancer.
When Should I Go To Er
Seek emergency care if you have:
- Severe pain that doesnt go away.
- Signs of blood in your poop or bloody vomit.
- Signs of severe blood loss, such as paleness and faintness.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Stomach ulcers are common and treatable, but they should be taken seriously. Even when they dont cause symptoms, they arent a good sign. A stomach ulcer means that your natural stomach acid is overwhelming your protective stomach lining. Thats a situation that can only get worse if it isnt managed. Lifestyle changes may help, but youll still need to treat the underlying cause. Its probably either NSAID use or a common bacterial infection. Your healthcare provider can help prescribe the right medicines for your condition.
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Abdominal ultrasound is not used for the diagnosis of stomach ulcer but it helps in ruling out other causes of abdominal pain or to help detect presence of fluid in the abdomen which may result from perforation of the stomach.
Other investigations that may be asked for may be used in getting the physiological condition of the individual or help rule out other disease conditions.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Bleeding Ulcer
Bleeding ulcers dont always cause pain. Sometimes the first signs of a bleeding ulcer are signs of anemia. These include:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness.
You might have a heavier bleed if you notice:
- Blood in your poop, or black poop that resembles tar.
- Bloody vomit.
These symptoms require urgent medical attention.
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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 Of Stomach/gastric Ulcer:
- Abdominal pain: located commonly in the epigastric region. Pain is said to be burning in nature, constant and may or may not radiate to the back. It is made worse just immediately after eating particularly spicy meals and is relieved by antacids or after vomiting. Pain may however become generalized in those with perforated gastric ulcer.
- Vomiting: Vomitus may or may not be blood stained.
- Anorexia or the outright fear of eating on account of fear of pain.
- Haematochezia: passage of blood in the stool
- Melena: passage of black stool
- Dizziness: a sign of anaemia
- Abdominal distension: resulting from perforation of the intestines
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What Is An Ulcer
An ulcer is the result of an imbalance in digestive fluids. It occurs when the linings of the stomach or the small intestines become deeply eroded.
Ulcersrange from quite small to an inch or more in size.
Stomach ulcers are also known as gastric ulcers. Just as pepticulcers are any ulcers that affect both the stomach and small intestines.
The stomach produces a strong acid to help digest food and protect against microbes. To protect the tissues of the body from this acid, it also secretes a thick layer of mucus. If the mucus layer is worn away and stops functioning effectively, the acid can damage the stomach tissue causing an ulcer.
In some cases, the body produces too much stomach acid. As a result, the mucous lining becomes damaged or worn away. When this happens, the acid may damage the lining of the digestive tract and cause an ulcer sore.
Peptic ulcer remains a common problem in the United States. Around 10% of people will have peptic ulcer disease at some point in their life.
How Stomach Ulcers Are Treated
With treatment, most stomach ulcers will heal within a month or two. The treatment recommended for you will depend on what caused the ulcer.
Most people will be prescribed a medication called a proton pump inhibitor to reduce the amount of acid their stomach produces and allow the ulcer to heal naturally.
If an H. pylori infection is responsible for the ulcers, antibiotics will also be used to kill the bacteria, which should prevent the ulcer coming back.
If the ulcers are caused by the use of NSAIDs, PPIs are usually prescribed and your doctor will discuss whether you should keep using NSAIDs.
Alternative medication to NSAIDs, such as paracetamol, may be recommended.
Stomach ulcers can come back after treatment, although this is less likely to happen if the underlying cause is addressed.
Read more about treating stomach ulcers.
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How Do Tumors From Zes Cause Peptic Ulcers
Zollinger-Ellison syndrome is a rare disorder that happens when one or more tumors form in your pancreas and duodenum. The tumors release large amounts of gastrin, a hormone that causes your stomach to produce large amounts of acid. The extra acid causes peptic ulcers to form in your duodenum and in the upper intestine.
When Should I Call My Healthcare Provider
See your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these symptoms:
- Vomiting blood or dark material that looks like coffee grounds
- Extreme weakness or dizziness
- Blood in your stools
- Nausea or vomiting that doesnt get better, or gets worse
- A sudden, severe pain that may spread to your back
- Losing weight without even trying
Untreated peptic ulcers may cause other health problems. Sometimes they bleed. If they become too deep, they can break through your stomach.
Ulcers can also keep food from going through your stomach.
What Is The Treatment For Ulcers
If you have ulcer symptoms, see your doctor. Prompt treatment can prevent excessive bleeding and other complications.
Ulcers are usually diagnosed after an upper GI endoscopy . An endoscope is a long flexible tube with a light and camera on the end. The tube is inserted into your throat, then to the esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the small intestine. Learn how to prepare for an endoscopy here.
Generally performed as an outpatient procedure, it allows the doctor to locate and identify problems in the stomach and upper intestine.
Bleeding ulcers must be addressed quickly, and treatment can start during the initial endoscopy. If bleeding from ulcers is found during the endoscopy, the doctor can:
- inject medication directly
- cauterize the ulcer to stop the bleeding
- clamp off the bleeding vessel
If you have an ulcer, youll be tested for H. pylori. This can be done using a tissue sample taken during the endoscopy. It can also be accomplished with noninvasive tests such as a stool sample or breath test.
If you have the infection, antibiotics and other drugs can help fight the bacteria and ease symptoms. To be certain you get rid of it, you must finish taking the medication as directed, even if your symptoms stop.
If your ulcers are the result of taking too many NSAIDs, work with your doctor to find another medication to treat pain.
Over-the-counter antacids sometimes relieve symptoms. Ask your doctor if its okay to take antacids.