What Does a Stomach Ulcer Look Like?
What is a stomach ulcer?
Where can you find stomach ulcers?
Stomach ulcer symptoms
What causes stomach ulcers?
Stomach ulcers diagnosis and treatment
What Is a Stomach Ulcer?
A stomach ulcer is considered to be a wound that is present inside the walls of the stomach. Ulcers are known to be open wounds, and they are said to mostly develop in and lead to damage of the inside lining of the stomach. They are mostly sore and can cause a lot of pain. Stomach ulcers are usually found in the small intestine or in the lining of the stomach, as mentioned earlier. These ulcers are a possible sign of a medical condition known as peptic ulcer. Such ulcers tend to develop when hydrochloric acid makes its way through the mucus defenses and digests the stomach lining. This leads to an open wound. Since the stomach is said to be always in motion due to the fact that it grinds food, the wound thus always remains open, and this causes intense pain in the stomach.
Stomach ulcers are known to occur when the thick layer of mucus that protects the stomach from any digestive juices is reduced, which in turn enables the digestive acid to eat away at the lining tissues of the stomach. Stomach ulcers cause burning pain in the stomach, relieved by eating food. The food present in the stomach is known to partially dissolve the acid, but the discomfort will often start again when the stomach becomes empty. The presence of stomach ulcers can also lead to a feeling of being bloated, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, and intolerance to certain fatty foods.
Severe cases of stomach ulcers are known to cause such significant bleeding that the individual may experience bloody vomit, clotting of the blood, or passing tarry stools. An individual may have trouble breathing normally, experience fainting spells, have unexplained weight loss leading to changes in appetite, or nausea and vomiting. There are multiple reasons for stomach ulcers to occur, and they are mostly caused due to an infection by a bacteria known as H. pylori. The intake of pain relievers as well as certain other drugs, which may include low-dose aspirin, steroids, drugs for osteoporosis, and anticoagulants, are all known to cause stomach ulcers as well.
There are various signs and symptoms that can be associated with stomach ulcers. A few of these symptoms can be mild or severe in form. The severity of the symptoms is also said to be based on the severity of the ulcer. Below are some of the symptoms that can be experienced by those suffering from stomach ulcers: In the belly button region, the individual may experience excessive pain; sudden loss of weight; loss of interest in eating due to constant pain; a feeling of being bloated most of the time; pain or a burning sensation in the chest region, which is also known as heartburn; in the stomach, there would be a dull pain; vomiting; nausea; and burping.
When the stomach is empty, the pain would become more intense, and such pain would last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. Hence, it is important to consult a doctor if anyone experiences these symptoms. It should not be ignored as a mild form of pain since, if the pain is not treated, it can lead to severe complications.
It is not just one factor which can lead to stomach ulcers; there are several things that can cause them. Ulcers are known to mostly develop when certain factors lead to problems in mucus production in the stomach.
- H. pylori infection: An H. pylori infection is one of the common findings in people who suffer from stomach ulcers. An H. pylori infection is known to irritate the stomach, and this infection tends to jumpstart the development of stomach ulcers. It is often able to thrive in the acidic conditions present inside the stomach.
- Prolonged use of painkillers: Most oral painkillers that are used to treat pain caused by arthritis or physical injuries can also lead to stomach ulcers as one possible side effect. Drugs that belong to the NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) group are often associated with stomach ulcers.
- Stress: There is a new term called a stress ulcer. This is said to occur in individuals who have sustained an intense amount of physical stress, such as having a critical form of illness, sepsis, or sustaining severe injuries, which can also include burns or a head injury. It is not well understood how exactly it occurs, but if experts are to be believed, then stress may lead to an increase in the production of acids in the stomach, thereby leading to ulcers.
- Alcohol abuse: Alcohol is a common factor that irritates the stomach, and if an individual drinks excessive amounts for a prolonged period of time, it can greatly increase the risk of getting a stomach ulcer. Alcohol leads to an increase in the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, hence, excess consumption of large quantities or drinking for a long period can lead to the formation of ulcers.
Some of the other causes of stomach ulcers are: due to a side effect of any medicine, an increased consumption of spicy foods in one’s daily diet, smoking, and excessive amounts of acidity in the stomach.
The diagnosis of a stomach ulcer would start with the doctor assessing the symptoms along with a physical examination. The doctor would also ask you to list down and elaborate on those symptoms. An individual may also need to tell the doctor about all the medications being taken as well as one’s consumption of alcohol. Blood tests can also be carried out to detect the presence of anemia or to check for any other conditions. In certain cases, the doctor would need to know the extent of damage caused by the stomach ulcers. This would be done through an upper GI series, which involves swallowing a contrast agent, and then the doctor would carry out an X-ray of the abdomen. The contrast agent that had been swallowed would allow the upper digestive tract to be reflected clearly on the X-ray film, and the doctor would also be able to see if there are any ulcers present in the stomach.
The doctor can also choose to carry out an endoscopy. This process is involves the insertion of a thin, flexible tube with a camera present at one end so as to visualize the inside of the individual’s esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. An endoscopy allows the doctor to view the ulcer (or ulcers) as well as check for bleeding, swelling, and also check for the presence of any foreign objects.
Treating stomach ulcers would require changes in one’s lifestyle so as to get the underlying cause handled. If you are suffering from an H. pylori infection, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics. A few of the most commonly prescribed antibiotics are Amoxicillin, Tinidazole, Clarithromycin, Tetracycline, Metronidazole, and Levofloxacin. The regimens of these antibiotics for H. pylori infections can last for a period of two weeks. In addition to the antibiotics, the doctor can also prescribe proton-pump inhibitor (PPI) or histamine blocker (H2) drugs. The PPI drugs would include Omeprazole, Esomeprazole, Pantoprazole, Lansoprazole, and Raberprazole. These are known to work by blocking the production of acid in the stomach. Most of the treatments carried out for stomach ulcers are known to be successful. Drugs do heal the ulcer in most cases, and the doctor can see if the ulcer is healing with the help of an endoscopy.