Stomach (Gastric) ulcer

Photo credit: Jamaicahospital.org

Do you sometimes have burning sensation or pain between your chest and belly?

Is the pain more intense when you have an empty stomach?

You may have to try getting diagnosed for ulcer

While all gastric ulcers are peptic, all peptic ulcers are not gastric.

An ulcer is called gastric when it occurs in the stomach, therefore stomach ulcer is also known as gastric ulcer.

What is a stomach ulcer?
A stomach ulcer is a painful sore in the lining of the stomach.

Your digestive tract is coated with thick layer mucus that normally protects your stomach against digestive acids when this mucus layer decreases, the acid eats away the tissue that lines the stomach, creating a painful open sore, hence the stomach ulcer.
Stomach ulcers may be cured easily, but when not properly treated, it can become severe.

WHAT CAUSES STOMACH ULCER?

• Infection with a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori)
• Frequent/Prolonged used of certain pain relievers such as aspirin, Ibuprofen, etc
• Other medications used along with pain relievers. They include; steroids, anticoagulants, low-dose aspirin, alendronate, risedronate, SSRIs

RISK FACTORS

You are more likely to have an ulcer if you;
• Smoke
• Drink too much alcohol
• Eat spicy foods always

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

The most common symptom of stomach ulcers is, a burning sensation or pain between your chest and belly, sometimes it may extend towards the upper part of your back. The pain is often more severe when your stomach is empty, and it can last for a few minutes to several hours.

Other common signs and symptoms include:

• Bloating
• Releasing gas suddenly from the stomach through your mouth (Belching)
• Burning sensation in your chest (Heartburn)
• Dull pain in the stomach
• Pain that may worsen when you eat, drink or take antacids
• Feeling easily full while eating
• Nausea or vomiting
• Bloody vomits

DIAGNOSIS

The doctor may ask you questions on your medical history, your symptoms and the medicines you take, using physical examination, he may check for bloating in your abdomen by listening to sounds within your abdomen using a stethoscope, he may tap on your abdomen to check for tenderness or pain.
You may be subjected to laboratory tests to check if you have a Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection.

TREATMENT

Treating stomach ulcer depends on the cause of your ulcer.

Most cases of ulcers can be treated with a prescription from your doctor, but in extreme cases which is rare, surgery may be required.

Antibiotic medications: This is recommended when the ulcer is caused by a bacterium (H. Pylori). Antibiotics are likely taken for 2 weeks with additional medications to reduce the acidity of the stomach.

The antibiotics include amoxicillin, clarithromycin, metronidazole (Flagyl), tetracycline, etc.

Medications to reduce acid production: They reduce the amount of stomach acid that is released into your digestive tract, thereby relieving the ulcer pain and encouraging healing. They include famotidine, cimetidine, and nizatidine.
Antacids (substances that neutralize stomach acidity): They can relieve the symptoms of an ulcer, but generally they are not used to heal an ulcer.

Medications that help protect the lining of the stomach and the small intestine(cytoprotective agents): They include prescription medications sucralfate and misoprostol.

An untreated ulcer can lead to the following complications:

• Internal bleeding
• Infection of the abdominal cavity (Peritonitis)
• Blockade of the passage of food through the digestive tract (obstruction)

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