How to Identify and Manage Stomach Ulcers
Stomach ulcers occur when the stomach is overly acidic and originate from lifestyle, diet, or the use of certain medications. Peptic ulcers often go unnoticed if they do not get irritated or ruptured but are capable of producing painful symptoms. Ulcers are caused by one of two reasons, which is the overuse of NSAID’s or the bacterium Heliobacter pylori. Essentially, people of all ages and backgrounds are susceptible to acquiring stomach ulcers but older individuals are more vulnerable. In fact, ulcers can form in any part of the stomach, which is why this condition has become an epidemic.
Did you know that nearly ten percent of the population suffers from stomach ulcers at some point in their life?
What is a Stomach Ulcer?
Stomach ulcers occur when there are holes or sores on the lining of the stomach and cause pain and disturbances. The bacterium H. pylori has the ability to affect the whole digestive system, which can lead to infections and complications. Accordingly, this condition often goes misdiagnosed because it might be confused with abdominal pain, nausea, loss of appetite. When the sore or hole in the stomach becomes irritated, it has the capacity to burn through the stomach lining. At this point, digestive juices break through the damaged tissue and affect surrounding organs, which can be dangerous.
The longer a peptic ulcer goes untreated, the more it burns through the stomach lining and seeps outside the stomach. For this reason, this essentially can lead to mild to severe infections and other common digestive ailments. The digestive juice hydrochloric acid and enzyme pepsin can quickly burn through the mucosal lining that protects the stomach. As this happens continually, food that is digested can irritate the area and even lead to internal bleeding. The burning sensation that occurs after eating a meal is literally the gastric juices damaging tissue in your stomach.
Symptoms of Stomach Ulcers
When excess gastric acids, bacteria, and other toxins enter the stomach via damaged area in the mucosa, symptoms occur. The symptoms of this condition cause extreme pain and can lead to infections and complications throughout the body. Researchers have discovered that while ulcers may heal in some individuals, other individuals may be genetically predisposed to this condition. The symptoms may range from general abdominal pain and disruptions to bloating and more serious pains. Signs of stomach ulcers include:
- Acid reflux
- Burning or gnawing pain in the stomach
- Change in appetite
- Dark stools (from internal bleeding)
- Severe pain in the upper or lower abdomen
Generally, medical professionals believe that a poor appetite, stress, and even the overuse of NSAID’s lead to peptic ulcer formation. Ulcers may cause symptoms between meals or at night and briefly stops with the use of antacids. The sensations felt can last anywhere from a few minutes to hours on end. The important thing to remember if you identify a stomach ulcer is that ulcers can go away on their own. Historically, up to ninety percent of cases of stomach ulcers have been resolved without surgery or medication.
Types of Ulcers
There are generally two types of ulcers that an individual can suffer from and they are identified based on location. With this being said, ulcer pain may occur in one specific area or may be felt throughout the stomach. The symptoms of ulcers may be hidden for a length of time because they grow over time. Duodenal ulcers affect the duodenum, or the upper part of the stomach, and may become inflamed after eating a meal. Accordingly, gastric ulcers are located on the stomach lining and cause a dulling or gnawing pain.
An individual can discern between gastric and duodenal ulcers by the types of pain that they feel throughout their abdomen. Those who suffer from gastric ulcers may be more likely to suffer from symptoms right after eating. On the other hand, a duodenal ulcer is more likely to show symptoms hours after eating a meal. Both may cause a shift in appetite, excessive burping, pain when eating fatty foods, and pain with an empty stomach. Additionally, a poor diet, mismanaged stress, and the consumption of alcohol can make symptoms more painful and severe.
Complications of Stomach Ulcers
Less severe ulcers have the ability to go away on their own with minor changes that promote cellular healing, However, ulcers that cause severe pain or have damaged nearby tissue may require extra care and medication. Certain symptoms do not cause complications while others are more severe and require treatment right away to prevent bacterial growth. The most effective way to identify and diagnose symptoms related to inflamed ulcers is to visit a medical professional. Signs that an individual needs appropriate medical care include:
- Blood in the stool
- Extreme weakness and fatigue
- Nausea that does not go away
- Sudden pain in the lower back
- Vomiting blood or coffee ground-like material
Diagnosing Stomach Ulcers
Medical professionals may run certain tests to identify the severity of the ulcer that is causing issues. For instance, swallowing a small amount of barium may be prescribed before an imaging test to observe the internal organs. Imaging tests are used to view the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum to check for perforations. Blood tests may be administered to check for antibodies, or infection fighting cells, to identify Heliobacter pylori. Other common tests include taking a sample of an individual’s stool and performing a urea breath test.
How to Treat Stomach Ulcers
There are options that can be used to reduce the onset and severity of symptoms related to this condition. By refraining from eating fatty foods, this eliminates the chance of disrupting the ulcer as well as absorb more nutrients. For more severe cases, medical professionals may prescribe antibiotics, H2-blockers, proton pump inhibitors, antacids, and mucosal protective agents. In general, the proper administrative of medications can dissolve ulcers quickly. The sooner ulcers are treated, the less likely it is to damage surrounding tissues or cause long term digestive issues.