Gastric ulcer is the sore formation in your stomach lining. It is a painful condition that causes you distress and discomfort. It is a form of peptic ulcer, which affects the small intestines and stomach. The painful condition needs treatment to prevent escalation of complications. So, read ahead to know in-depth about the problem.
What Is A Gastric Ulcer?
It is a condition occurring during the reduction of the thick mucus layer on your stomach. The thinning of the stomach lining can cause adverse effects as it fails to protect the stomach from digestive juices. So, the digestive acids can erode the tissues in the stomach lining. It leads to the ulcer formation in your stomach. The condition is easy to cure with proper medical treatment. Therefore, you need to take action as soon as possible to prevent the issue from becoming severe.
Causes Of Gastric Ulcer
Gastric ulcer can occur due to different issues. You need to get comprehensive information on the cause of ulcers developing in your stomach region. You can monitor the issues and get the necessary treatment as soon as possible. So, the main reasons triggering the problem are:
An infection caused by the H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori) bacteria can result in the ulcer in your stomach. It is one of the major causes of your ulcer.
Using the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for a long duration of time can lead to stomach ulcer. People taking medications like aspirin, naproxen, or ibuprofen for pain relief can suffer from the ulcer.
You can experience stomach acidity due to different reasons. It may range from smoking, genetics, certain food items or even stress.
In some rare cases, people experience gastric ulcer due to Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. The health issue can trigger excess production of stomach acids. So, it leads to the development of intestinal and stomach ulcers. Among the total population of the affected people with a stomach ulcer, 1% suffer from the syndrome, which triggers the gastric ulcer.
Symptoms Of Gastric Ulcer
When you suffer from the ulcer in your stomach region, you can see several signs. The signs you observe depends on the severity of the problem. The most common symptom associated with a gastric ulcer is the pain or burning sensation in the middle of your abdomen. You can feel severe pain in the area between the chest and belly button. The pain you experience can become severe when you have an empty stomach. So, you can feel severe discomfort and agony due to the intense pain, it most likely lasts for a few minutes to several hours.
Apart from the agonizing pain, you can also experience other symptoms like:
- Weight loss
- Dull pain in the stomach region
- Loss of appetite due to pain
- Stomach feels full
- Acid reflux/burping
- Burning sensation in your chest (heartburn)
- Pain that improves with eating food or drinking
- Anemia triggering pale skin, shortness of breath, and tiredness
- Dark stool resembling tar
- Bloody vomit or resembles coffee grounds
When you see any of the symptoms, you need to see your doctor immediately. The initial signs may only cause mild discomfort. But, ignoring the condition can lead to severe complications. Once the gastric ulcer starts bleeding it can prove fatal to your health. So, you must get medical help at the right time to prevent the issue from becoming life-threatening.
Diagnosis Of Gastric Ulcer
When you observe the signs and symptoms associated with gastric ulcer, you need to contact your doctor. Depending on the severity of the ulcer, your doctor can suggest the different treatment options. Your doctor can suggest diagnostic techniques based on the signs you exhibit. So, you can expect the following diagnostic methods to make a precise conclusion:
Your doctor first asks for the symptoms you suffer to detect the severity of the gastric ulcer. While assessing the physical signs, your doctor also reviews your medical history. It is to eliminate the possibility of other health problems with similar signs. In some cases, other health problems or side-effects due to medications you take can trigger similar symptoms. So, your doctor reviews the possibility of such problems.
Rule Out Infection
The next step your doctor takes to detect the presence of infection in your body due to the H. pylori bacteria. The different tests like blood or stool test can detect the presence of infection. The breath test is another test that detects the infection. During the test, you need to drink a clear liquid. Then, you breathe into a bag. The sealed bag can reveal the presence of bacteria by measuring carbon dioxide levels. The high levels of carbon dioxide indicate H. pylori infection.
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.
The sophisticated test involves the use of a light tube with a camera at its end. The endoscope inserted through your mouth to the stomach area detects the stomach region and the first part of your small intestine. The test can detect the presence of ulcers, abnormal tissue, and bleeding.
If your doctor detects something serious, then the endoscopic biopsy can shed light on the actual problem. It is helpful to detect severe cases of gastric ulcer. A piece of stomach tissue extracted using endoscope gets assessed in the lab.
Complications Due To Gastric Ulcer
It is important to get treatment for gastric ulcer as it can escalate and trigger severe complications. Most people experience severe distress due to ulcers. So, they seek immediate medical help. In some rare cases, you can experience serious complication like:
It is the most common complication accompanying gastric ulcer. The problem occurs when an ulcer develops at the blood vessel site. The bleeding can vary from person to person, resulting in other health complication. So, you can experience the following:
The long-term slow bleeding can lead to loss of blood and subsequent anemia. So, may see signs like:
- Heart palpitations
- Pale Skin
The rapid and severe bleeding can show severe signs. You can see some troublesome symptoms like:
- Black/tar-like/sticky stools
- Vomit blood
It is a rare complication triggered due to gastric ulcer. Perforation can lead to your stomach gets pierced or split open. It is a serious condition as it enables your stomach bacteria to escape. The escaped bacteria can infect the peritoneum (lining of the abdomen). So, it causes a condition called peritonitis. Peritonitis can cause an infection that spreads rapidly into your bloodstream and affect other vital organs. The condition results in sepsis, which can prove fatal to your life. Multiple organ failure can lead to death. So, you need immediate treatment. Consult your doctor as soon as possible when you experience abdominal pain. The pain that worsens steadily needs medical attention.
Gastric Outlet Obstruction
Gastric outlet obstruction is another complication due to gastric ulcer. The inflamed or swollen ulcers in your stomach can obstruct the function of the digestive system. It blocks the normal passing of food through your digestive system. So, you can experience various signs and symptoms like:
- Frequent vomiting that contains undigested food particles
- Feeling of fullness or bloating persistently
- You feel full after eating just a small quantity of food
- Unexplained weight loss
Gastric Ulcer Treatment Options
The treatment you need depends on the underlying cause of the stomach ulcer and its severity. Depending on the diagnosis, your doctor can adopt an ideal treatment option. You need to see your doctor immediately once you diagnose the issue. The issue can escalate into serious complications that may require surgery or blood transfusions. The treatment can vary from taking simple prescription medications to endoscopy depending on the signs you experience. So, your doctor can treat a gastric ulcer in the following ways:
Nonsurgical Treatment Options
If you experience less severe symptoms of stomach ulcer, then it means you need a non-surgical treatment option to alleviate the problem. It uses no invasive techniques to cure the problem. You can find relief from the issue with proper medication and a healthy lifestyle. Your symptoms can subside easily with the treatment. Therefore, your doctor can suggest the following:
H. pylori Infection Triggered Ulcer
H. pylori infection can trigger ulcers. So, your doctor can suggest prescription medication to relieve the problem. The medication helps remove all the bacteria from your body to provide relief. Therefore, you need to take medications like:
The infection requires antibiotic treatment for a specified period of time. You need to take the medication suggested by the doctor religiously to cure the infections. So, the common antibiotics that serve the purpose are:
Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)
The PPIs prescribed by the doctor reduces stomach acid production. So, it prevents further damage to your stomach lining due to the ulcer. It also helps your gastric ulcer heal naturally. So, you need to take the PPIs like pantoprazole, lansoprazole or pantoprazole for at least four to eight weeks to get relief.
Ulcers Caused By NSAIDs
The non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can cause discomfort on the stomach lining. It can lead to stomach ulcer. So, your doctor can opt for the following techniques to cure the problem:
If you suffer from diseases that require treatment with NSAIDs, you need to take alternative painkillers. So, your doctor can suggest other medications to treat your condition. The prescribed alternative will not worsen the stomach ulcers. In most cases, your doctor suggests paracetamol or COX-2 inhibitors diminish the pain without affecting the ulcers.
Medications With Low-Dose Aspirin
Your doctor suggests low dose aspirin for treating the blood clot. It also prevents the existing blood-clots from triggering heart-related problems. You need to talk to your doctor regarding taking it continuously when you suffer from stomach ulcers. The doctor can suggest H2-receptor antagonist or PPI along with low dose aspirin to prevent worsening of the gastric ulcer.
Your doctor can suggest H2-receptor antagonists instead of PPIs. The medication reduces the stomach acid levels produced. So, it helps with the treatment of stomach ulcers. In most cases, doctors prescribe the medication known as Ranitidine for treating the gastric ulcer.
Side Effects Of Using Medication
Remember that the medication used to treat the stomach ulcers can trigger several side-effects. So, you need to talk to your doctor about the possible adverse effects of the medication prescribed for your ulcers. The common negative aspects associated with taking the medication are:
You may experience the side-effects only for a short period of time. Therefore, it may not have lasting effects. But, it is better to talk to your doctor when you feel severe discomfort. Your healthcare professional can alter the dose or change the medication completely to ease the side-effects.
It is one of the non-invasive treatment that you can implement in your life easily. Just make some changes to your diet. Remember a good diet may never cure the stomach ulcer. But, it can offer positive benefits to your intestinal health and overall health. Including food rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber can improve your health and immunity. Eating specific food can help your body eliminate the infection. It can fight off H. pylori by boosting the body’s own good bacteria. So, eat more fruits and vegetables like:
- Leafy vegetables like kale and spinach
- Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and radishes
- Berries like raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries
- Olive oil
- Probiotic-rich food containing Saccharomyces and lactobacillus (yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, kombucha)
Foods To Avoid
While some food items enhance your health, certain food can trigger acid reflux disease. So, it can worsen the already existing gastric ulcers. It is important to stay away from food items that can trigger the problem. Therefore, stay away from spicy as well as sour food items when your body heals from ulcers.
Surgical Treatment Options
In some severe cases, you may require surgery to alleviate the gastric ulcer. Not everyone who suffers from the problem needs an invasive procedure to get relief. Certain people who come under the following category require surgical assistance to alleviate the discomfort caused by the health condition:
- Ulcers that recur frequently
- The ulcers that do not heal properly
- Experience bleeding
- Obstruction of the flow of food from your stomach to the small intestine
- Ulcers causing tear through your stomach
In such cases, surgical intervention can help overcome the problem. It is essential to get medical help as it can result in fatal complications. The surgical procedure may include:
- Remove the entire ulcer completely
- Take tissue from the other part of the intestine and patch it over the existing ulcer location
- Tie off the artery triggering bleeding
- Reduce the stomach acid supply by cutting off the nerve supply to the stomach
Home Remedies For Gastric Ulcer
If your gastric ulcer causes only mild issues, then you can focus on experimenting some home remedies. Some food items can help you reduce the effects caused the H. pylori. It is the bacteria that trigger the ulcers in your stomach. But, you cannot replace the medications prescribed by the doctor with the home remedies. You need to talk to your doctor before trying the remedies. Always include the remedies with your current treatment plan prescribed by the doctor for better results. So, you can include the following in your daily life:
Probiotics refer to the supplements that contain the good gut bacteria. The live bacteria and yeast can improve the functioning of your digestive system. Probiotics supplements like yogurt can keep your gut healthy.
Honey has anti-bacterial and anti-oxidant properties that strengthen your immune system. It also aids in digestion and alleviates all types of digestive issues.
It is an important amino acid that plays a significant role in maintaining intestinal health. So, you can consume food rich in glutamine like cabbage, spinach, eggs, fish, and chicken.
Your doctor can also suggest some simple home remedies depending on the severity of your gastric ulcer. Therefore, get suggestions from your doctor before trying new methods.
Prevention Of Gastric Ulcer
You can prevent the gastric ulcer from affecting your life by including some good habits. Simple lifestyle changes can provide good results. So, you can adopt the following steps to avoid the ulcer formation in your stomach:
It is important to maintain good hygiene to prevent stomach ulcer. So, you need to keep your hands clean by washing it with soap and water. You also need to ensure you eat good food. Clean the fruits and vegetables before consuming. Cook the food thoroughly to kill all the harmful substances in the food.
Avoid Irritating Food
Some food items can cause irritation to your stomach lining. Therefore, identify the foods that cause irritation. Monitor the food you consume properly. If any food upsets your stomach, then avoid it. In most cases, people find spicy, fatty, and citrus foods irritating to the stomach. Therefore, try to avoid it as much as possible.
Smoking is not good for your health. It can trigger several health issues. Heavy smokers mostly develop duodenal ulcers compared to people who do not smoke. Therefore, quit the bad habit.
Consuming alcohol can contribute to gastric ulcer development. Therefore, control your alcohol consumption. Try to practice moderation and keep your intake to the minimum to avoid complications.
Caution With NSAIDs Intake
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can affect your stomach lining. So, try to take NSAIDs with food. When you take aspirin or ibuprofen (the common NSAIDs) with food, it reduces the risk of stomach irritation.
Stress is a negative reaction that triggers severe complication in the body. Therefore, you need to learn to control your stress levels. Include regular exercise in your routine. Also, practice mind and body relaxation techniques like yoga or tai chi for controlling the stress-related stomach problems.
Gastric ulcer is a condition that you can easily cure with proper medical assistance. You just need to consult your doctor when you observe the early symptoms to prevent serious problems. So, go to the hospital when you observe stomach symptoms that last for a few days or keeps recurring. With proper evaluation and treatment, you can find relief from the issue with ease.
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