Stomach Ulcer Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment

Stomach Ulcer: Symptom, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

stomach ulcer symptoms

Stomach Ulcer Symptoms: Our skin and stomach walls have a direct reflection. Just saying! 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.

The mucus is the most integral part of the stomach to help protect the tissues from wearing out due to the acid. If the mucus layer is worn away and stops functioning effectively, the acid can damage the stomach tissue, causing an ulcer.

On research, the estimated numbers display that one in every ten people in Western countries will have an ulcer in the stomach. Also, in the small intestine at some point in their lives.

This article sums up home remedies, treatments for various causes of stomach ulcers. Stomach ulcers are relatively easy to cure, but they can cause significant problems if left untreated.

Fast facts on stomach ulcers

Here are some key points about stomach ulcers.

  • Stomach ulcers are common in the West and easy to treat but can become serious.
  • The most common causes are bacteria and the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
  • The classic symptom of a stomach ulcer is indigestion.
  • Treatment for stomach ulcers normally focuses on removing the cause.

Stomach Ulcer Symptoms

The most primary symptom of a stomach ulcer is indigestion. It is often also called dyspepsia. Indigestion causes pain or discomfort in the stomach area. This symptom can be misconstrued with heartburn though it occurs at the same time.

Heartburn can be caused by acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It occurs slightly higher up from the stomach and is felt in the lower part of the chest.

It is worth noting that not all stomach ulcers cause indigestion. The symptoms of a heartburn and a stomach ulcer are pretty vague and distinct.

An ulcer tends to produce a burning or dull pain in the stomach area. This pain is sometimes described as a “biting” or “gnawing” pain. Some people may describe it is as a hungry sensation.

Other symptoms include:

  • Weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Not eating because of pain
  • Burping
  • Bloating
  • Pain may be relieved by eating, drinking, or taking antacids

Some stomach ulcers go unnoticed and show no typical indigestion-type pains. These ulcers are less common and tend to be diagnosed after the ulcer worsens and has started bleeding. Some ulcers can cause a hole in the stomach wall. This is known as perforation and this occurs in a very serious condition.

Stomach ulcer symptoms often change and sometimes go unnoticed in the above cases overtime. Such conditions exist and can be a difficult task to spot.


Stomach Ulcer Causes

The two main causes of ulcers of the stomach and small intestine are:

  • pylori bacteria
  • a class of painkillers called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Less common causes of stomach ulcers include:

  • Excess stomach acidity, or hyperacidity: This can occur for a range of reasons, including genetics, smoking, stress, and some foods.
  • Zollinger-Ellison syndrome: This is a rare disease that causes an excess of stomach acid to be produced.

Stomach Ulcer Risk Factors

Certain behaviours and factors increase the chances of developing a stomach ulcer. These include:

  • Frequent steroid usage
  • Smoking
  • Overproducing calcium, or hypercalcemia
  • Genetics
  • Consuming alcohol frequently

Stomach ulcers most often occur in the people of age 50 years and above. People can develop a stomach ulcer at any age, but they are much less common in children. But there a big void in understanding the functionality of stomach ulcer, the risk in children is higher if their parents smoke.


Stomach Ulcer Diagnosis

Diagnosis and treatment will depend on the cause and symptoms of the stomach ulcer. The diagnosis is primarily categorised based on the severity of the ulcer.

To diagnose a stomach ulcer, your doctor will review your medical history along with your symptoms and any prescription or over-the-counter medications you’re taking.

  • To rule out H. pylori infection, a blood, stool, or breath test may be ordered. With a breath test, you’ll be instructed to drink a clear liquid and breathe into a bag, which is then sealed. If H. pylori are present, the breath sample will contain higher-than-normal levels of carbon dioxide.
  • Other tests and procedures used to diagnose stomach ulcers include:
  • Barium swallow: You drink a thick white liquid (barium) that coats your upper gastrointestinal tract and helps your doctor see your stomach and small intestine on X-rays.
  • Endoscopy (EGD): A thin, lighted tube is inserted through your mouth and into the stomach and the first part of the small intestine. This test is used to look for ulcers, bleeding, and any tissue that looks abnormal.
  • Endoscopic biopsy: A piece of stomach tissue is removed so it can be analysed in a lab.
  • Explore the interactive 3-D diagram below to learn more about stomach ulcers.

Treating stomach ulcers

Treatment will vary depending on the cause of your ulcer. Most ulcers can be treated under the doctor’s guidance, but in rare cases, surgery may be required.

It’s important to promptly treat an ulcer. It is better to let the doctor know and lead to discuss a treatment plan. If the patient has an actively bleeding ulcer, it is likely to be severe and it is best to hospitalize for intensive treatment.

The treatment involves endoscopy and IV ulcer medications. You may also require a blood transfusion.

Nonsurgical treatment

If the stomach ulcer is the result of H. pylori, you’ll need antibiotics and drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). Each case differs slightly and it is best to go by the family doctor’s advice.  PPIs block the stomach cells that produce acid.

In addition to these treatments, your doctor may also recommend:

H2 receptor blockers (drugs that also block acid production)

  • Stopping use of all NSAIDs
  • Follow-up endoscopy
  • Probiotics (useful bacteria that may have a role in killing off H. Pylori)
  • Bismuth supplement

Side effects of medications used to treat stomach ulcers can include:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal pain

These side effects are typically temporary. If any of these side effects cause extreme discomfort, talk to the doctor immediately about changing your medication. Delayed medication or diagnosis can lead to severe consequences and sometimes fatal.

Surgical treatment

In very rare cases, a complicated stomach ulcer will require surgery. This may be the case for ulcers that:

  • Continue to return
  • Don’t heal
  • Bleed
  • Tear through the stomach
  • Keep food from flowing out of the stomach into the small intestine

Surgery may include:

  • Removal of the entire ulcer
  • Taking tissue from another part of the intestines and patching it over the ulcer site
  • Tying off a bleeding artery
  • Cutting off the nerve supply to the stomach to reduce the production of stomach acid

Home remedies for stomach ulcers

In addition to eating healthy foods, the below tips and items may help reduce the effects of H. pylori, the bacteria responsible for stomach ulcers.

However, these supplements are not intended to replace prescription medication or your current treatment plan. They include:

  • Probiotics
  • Honey
  • Glutamine (food sources include chicken, fish, eggs, spinach, and cabbage)

The doctor may also have suggestions for healing stomach ulcer the natural way, at home to relieve discomfort from your ulcer.

Consider talking to the doctor about these natural and home remedies for ulcers.

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