Fast Facts On Stomach Ulcers
- Stomach ulcers are common in the West and easy to treat but can become serious.
- The most common causes are bacteria and use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs .
- The classic symptom of a stomach ulcer is indigestion.
- Treatment for stomach ulcers normally focuses on removing the cause.
The classic symptom of a stomach ulcer is indigestion, also called dyspepsia.
Indigestion causes pain or discomfort in the stomach area. This symptom can be mistaken for heartburn, which can occur at the same time.
Stomach ulcer symptoms tend to be more distinct than heartburn, but symptoms can still be vague.
An ulcer also tends to produce a burning or dull pain in the center of the abdomen. People sometimes describe the pain as a biting or gnawing pain. Some individuals may describe a hungry sensation.
Individuals may also be able to relieve pain by eating, drinking, or taking antacids.
Some stomach ulcers go unnoticed and show no typical indigestion-type pains. These ulcers are less common, and doctors tend them after they have started bleeding.
Some ulcers can cause a hole in the stomach wall. Health experts call this perforation, which is a severe condition.
Stomach ulcer symptoms often change over time and can be difficult to spot.
Dietary changes can help prevent stomach ulcers from developing.
Other Signs And Symptoms
Someone with a perforated ulcer typically lies quietly — often in a fetal position — and breathes shallowly to avoid aggravating their abdominal pain. People with a perforated ulcer appear distressed and obviously ill, and some experience shortness of breath. The skin may be pale and clammy, and the heart rate is often rapid. Fluid accumulation in the abdomen may lead to low blood pressure, with dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting. Little to no urine production occurs in people with markedly low blood pressure.
- Someone with a perforated ulcer typically lies quietly — often in a fetal position — and breathes shallowly to avoid aggravating their abdominal pain.
- People with a perforated ulcer appear distressed and obviously ill, and some experience shortness of breath.
What Are Peptic Ulcers
Peptic ulcers are sores that develop in the lining of the stomach, lower esophagus, or small intestine. Theyre usually formed as a result of inflammation caused by the bacteria H. pylori, as well as from erosion from stomach acids. Peptic ulcers are a fairly common health problem.
There are three types of peptic ulcers:
- gastric ulcers:ulcers that develop inside the stomach
- esophageal ulcers:ulcers that develop inside the esophagus
- duodenal ulcers: ulcers that develop in the upper section of the small intestines, called the duodenum
Different factors can cause the lining of the stomach, the esophagus, and the small intestine to break down. These include:
- Helicobacter pylori , a type of bacteria that can cause a stomach infection and inflammation
- frequent use of aspirin , ibuprofen , and other anti-inflammatory drugs
What Treatments Can Relieve Ulcer Pain
While over-the-counter medications can treat an upset stomach, they are generally not effective in treating ulcers. And taking over-the-counter painkillers could worsen the problem. That is why its better to see a doctor, who may combine several medications and therapies to relieve pain, cure the infection, and prevent it from worsening. Medications usually include:
Your doctor may also recommend making lifestyle modifications, including:
- Avoiding spicy and oily food
Other Causes Of Peptic Ulcers
- Genetics: A significant number of individuals with peptic ulcers have close relatives with the same problem, suggesting that genetic factors may be involved.
- Smoking: People who regularly smoke tobacco are more likely to develop peptic ulcers when compared with non-smokers.
- Alcohol consumption: Regular heavy drinkers of alcohol have a higher risk of developing peptic ulcers.
- Corticosteroid use: People on large or chronic doses of corticosteroids are also at greater risk.
- Mental stress: This stress has not been linked to the development of new peptic ulcers, but symptoms appear to be more severe in people with ulcers who are experiencing ongoing mental stress.
A patientâs description of symptoms will normally cause a doctor to suspect a peptic ulcer.
Tests that can confirm a diagnosis include:
- a blood test to check for H. pylori, though a positive test does not always mean there is an active infection
- a breath test, using a radioactive carbon atom to detect H. pylori
- a stool antigen test to detect H. pylori in the feces
- an upper gastrointestinal X-ray to identify ulcers
An endoscopy may also be used. This involves a long, narrow tube with a camera attached to the end is threaded down the patientâs throat and into the stomach and duodenum. This is the best diagnostic test.
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Sudden Severe Abdominal Pain
The first symptom of a perforated peptic ulcer is usually sudden, severe, sharp pain in the abdomen 1. The experience is typically so intense that most people precisely recall the exact moment the pain began. The pain is typically at its maximum immediately and persists. It is characteristically made worse by any movement, and greatly intensifies with coughing or sneezing. The pain is often generalized throughout the abdomen, but is sometimes focused in the upper abdomen. It may radiate to the shoulders or, less commonly, the hips.
- The first symptom of a perforated peptic ulcer is usually sudden, severe, sharp pain in the abdomen 1.
- The pain is often generalized throughout the abdomen, but is sometimes focused in the upper abdomen.
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.
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Signs You May Have A Stomach Ulcer
We have absolutely warned our patients about the dangers of untreated ulcers in the past. However, we consider this to be an extremely important matter and therefore, we will continue to try to educate the people of Los Angeles, as well as those elsewhere on the most common symptoms of stomach ulcers. If you know the signs, you can see your doctor sooner rather than later when things have gotten especially bad. Continue reading below to get familiar with what these symptoms are.
Treatment For Peptic Ulcer
Antacids: Antacids neutralize the acid present in the stomach. Antacids such as Mylanta and Maalox are safe and effective treatments however, the neutralizing action of these agents is short-lived, and continuous dosing is required. Antacids like Mylanta and Maalox which contain Magnesium can cause diarrhea, while aluminum containing agents like Amphojel can cause constipation. Ulcers return frequently when antacids are discontinued.
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Indicators For Medical Emergencies
Often seemingly harmless peptic ulcers may worsen and cause more injurious, serious, and possibly fatal complications. Here are warning signs to watch out for.
- Bloody vomit : Strong stomach acids may sometimes abrase the stomach mucosa to the extent of exposing blood vessels and causing internal bleeding.20 Vomit resembling coffee grounds is a cause for concern.
- Abnormally dark stools : Because of internal bleeding, stools may be tainted with blood because of which they appear dark in color. This again may signal a more serious complication.21
- A sudden sharp abdominal pain that worsens with time: An expanding peptic ulcer may penetrate the wall of the stomach or duodenum and is likely to cause unsuspecting severe abdominal pain.22
- Shock-like symptoms: Your body may cave under the immense pain and go into shock. So, pay heed to shock symptoms like excessive sweating, breathlessness, and lightheadedness.23
If one or more of these alarm bells ring, dont hesitate to hasten to the nearest medical facility.
What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor
If you have stomach ulcers, you may want to ask your doctor:
- What pain reliever can I use instead of an NSAID?
- How will I know if the H. pylori infection is gone?
- How do we find out if the ulcer has healed?
- What can I do relieve symptoms at home during treatment?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Contrary to commonly held beliefs, ulcers arent caused by stress or foods you eat. Most of time, bacteria causes them. Doctors can treat the bacteria with antibiotics and other medications.
If youve been popping a lot of antacids lately, youre constantly snacking to get rid of a gnawing pain in your stomach or you have any other signs of an ulcer, the best thing you can do for your health is talk to your provider. Treatment can heal an ulcer in a matter of weeks.
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What Is A Duodenal Ulcer
A duodenal ulcer is a sore that forms in the lining of the duodenum. Your duodenum is the first part of your small intestine, the part of your digestive system that food travels through straight after it leaves your stomach.
You can get an ulcer in your stomach as well as in your duodenum. Stomach ulcers and duodenal ulcers are both types of peptic ulcers. If you have either of these, you have what’s called ‘peptic ulcer disease’.
Tests To Diagnose Peptic Ulcer
- Blood Test: General to confirm the presence of H pylori.
- Breath Test: This uses a radioactive carbon atom to detect H pylori. The breath test is also useful in checking to see how effective treatment has been in eliminating H pylori.
- Stool Antigen Test: This test is to determine whether H. pylori is present in the feces . This test is also used to determine the affect of treatment of H. pylori.
- Upper gastrointestinal X-ray : Upper GI X-rays are only useful in detecting some ulcers.
- Endoscopy: Endoscopy is performed to visualize the upper part of the digestive system and check for ulcers.
- Biopsy: If an ulcer is detected on endoscopy, a biopsy or a small sample of tissue may be taken for examination to rule out cancer or test for H. pylori.
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When Stomach Pain Is And Is Not An Emergency
Most stomach pains are harmless. They may be caused by overeating, gas or indigestion. If your pain is short-term, goes away after passing gases or stools and with over-the-counter products or home remedies, there is nothing to worry about.
If your belly pain is severe, doesn’t go away or it keeps coming back, talk to your doctor.
You may have belly pain because of some problem that needs to be treated immediately. You should contact your doctor in an emergency rather than use self-care if you have the following:
- Pain accompanied by a fever over 38.3 C or 101 F
- Severe pain, fainting or inability to move
- Pain that starts all over the belly but settles into one area, especially the lower right part of the belly
- Extremely tender-to-the-touch and swollen belly
- Pain lasting for more than a few hours
- Extreme discomfort/pain in the belly
- Unable to keep food down for more than two days
Black Or Dark Colored Stool
If you think you may have an ulcer, a good way to tell is to look at your stool. If you notice that when you use the restroom your stool is extremely dark in color, or even black, chances are you are right about what is ailing you. If this is the case, you should absolutely go to the hospital immediately.
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How Does H Pylori Cause Ulcers
Although many people naturally carry H. pylori, it is not clear why the bacteria only cause ulcers in some people. H. pylori spread through food and water. They live in the mucus that coats the lining of the stomach and duodenum, and they produce urease, an enzyme that neutralizes stomach acid by making it less acidic.
To compensate for this, the stomach produces more acid, and this irritates the stomach lining. The bacteria also weaken the defense system of the stomach and causes inflammation. Patients with peptic ulcers caused by H. pylori need treatment to get rid of the bacterium from the stomach, and to prevent them coming back.
Stages And Types Of Stomach Ulcers
If you dont get treatment for a stomach ulcer, it can develop into a more serious condition:
- Bleeding: Your ulcer can bleed, which may cause your stools to look dark and can lead to anemia.
- Perforation: The ulcer can become so severe that it creates a hole in the wall of the stomach out of which food can leak, which is a severe situation, but it is rare.
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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.
How Stomach Ulcers Are Treated
Treatment 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 in their stomach.
Youll also need antibiotics if your ulcers were caused by a H. pylori infection.
Stomach ulcers can come back after treatment, although this is less likely to happen if the underlying cause is addressed.
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Signs And Symptoms Of A Perforated Peptic Ulcer
Peptic ulcers are erosions of the tissues lining the upper digestive tract, particularly the stomach and first portion of the small intestine, the duodenum.They are often caused by a bacterial infection that compromises your defense against the acid produced in the stomach. Peptic ulcers sometimes penetrate completely through the stomach or intestinal wall, resulting in a hole — or perforation — and spillage of acid, digestive enzymes and partially digested food into the abdominal cavity. Several signs and symptoms typically result, although they can occur with conditions other than a perforated ulcer.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Complications Of Peptic Ulcers
Sometimes ulcers can erode into blood vessels and cause bleeding, the most severe complication.
This bleeding can manifest when patients pass melenablack, sticky, tarry-appearing stoolsor they might vomit red or coffee ground-appearing contents. This bleeding can be slow or rapid, which can be life-threatening, Dr. Yalamanchili says.
Rarely, an ulcer causes so much inflammation that it creates a hole in the GI tract. This perforation can be life-threatening and require surgical intervention.
When an ulcer forms at the passageway between the stomach and small intestine, it can cause inflammation that blocks food or liquid from passing through into the stomach, called a gastric outlet obstruction.
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Burning Pain In Your Abdomen
This may seem like a no-brainer but the most common sign that people experience when they have a stomach ulcer is a persistent burning pain in their abdomen. This sensation occurs when juices in the stomach used for digestion come into contact with the open sore. For the most part, the pain is felt from the breastbone to navel and is often worse at night than during the day. On the other hand, if you are someone who frequently skips meals, you may find that you experience this pain much throughout the daytime.
Diagnosis And Treatment Of A Peptic Ulcer
If your doctor suspects a peptic ulcer, he or she will order an upper endoscopy. During this procedure, a gastroenterologist passes a thin, flexible tube through the mouth and into the stomach and small bowel. A tiny camera allows the doctor to see the GI tract from within.
If that ulcer is actively bleeding or has high-risk features of bleeding, then treatments can be applied through the endoscope to stop the bleeding, Dr. Yalamanchili says. These treatments include clips that clamp bleeding blood vessels, cautery devices to burn the bleeding blood vessel shut, injectable medicines to slow bleeding and sprays that induce clotting.
Ulcers caused by H. pylori are typically treated with antibiotics, drugs called proton pump inhibitors and over-the-counter medicines such as Pepto Bismol.
When NSAIDs are causing the ulcer, patients are told to discontinue the drugs. If they cant discontinue these medications for medical reasons, a doctor can prescribe a special acid-reducing medication in combination with the NSAID to lower the risk of bleeding.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of a peptic ulcer, contact your doctor. If you dont have one, you can find one here.
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Youre More Bloated Than Usual
If you notice your stomach feeling particularly bloated, it may be more serious than a little bit of gasit could be one of the signs of an ulcer. According to RM Healthy, bloating is often one of the earliest ulcer symptoms, with patients especially complaining of pain in their midsection. Of course, bloating can also be caused simply by eating something your body doesnt agree with or not drinking enough water, but when combined with these other symptoms, its worth checking out.
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