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Stomach Ulcer Symptoms

Stomach Ulcer Symptoms
A timely diagnosis plays a crucial role in the treatment of stomach ulcers. The sooner the stomach ulcer symptoms are recognized, the better it is. The following write-up provides information on the symptoms of this medical condition.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: Jan 24, 2018
A peptic ulcer is an open sore or lesion that develops in the duodenum or the lining of the stomach. The open sores that form in the duodenum are called duodenal ulcers, whereas the ones that develop in the lining of the stomach are called gastric ulcers. Gastric ulcers, which are commonly called stomach ulcers, form when a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori damages the mucous layer of the stomach. This causes the lining of the stomach to get exposed and come directly in contact with the stomach acid and pepsin, which is an enzyme that helps to break down proteins in food. Exposure to stomach acid and pepsin can erode the stomach lining, thereby causing ulcers.
The human body has its own mechanism to protect the stomach from the effects of the stomach acid. This mechanism is called gastric mucosal barrier. The epithelial cells of stomach mucosa produce bicarbonate ions that neutralize the gastric juices. Prostaglandins, which are hormone-like substances, also stimulate the production of mucus and bicarbonate. Stomach ulcers are likely to develop whenever the gastric mucosal barrier is broken. While infection due to Helicobacter pylori bacteria often causes ulceration, there could be other contributory factors behind the development of ulcers.
Early Symptoms of Stomach Ulcers
Since the symptoms of gastric ulcers are very similar to the symptoms of a majority of digestive ailments, there's often a delay in treatment, which in turn, causes the person's condition to deteriorate further. Thus, having a basic understanding of the causes and symptoms of stomach ulcers will help to rule out a misdiagnosis and the subsequent delay in the treatment.
If the symptoms are diagnosed early, this condition can be cured within a short span of time. On the contrary, turning a blind eye to the early symptoms can worsen the situation, and cause a lot of pain and discomfort to the individual. An affected individual is likely to experience the following symptoms:
◘ Dull, aching pain
◘ Burning sensation
◘ Bloating
◘ Belching
◘ Sudden loss of appetite
◘ Nausea
◘ Vomiting
◘ Fatigue
◘ Weakness
◘ Sour taste in the mouth
◘ Heartburn
◘ Weight loss
The burning sensation and pain that the affected individual experiences, usually occurs right after a meal. The duration for which the pain is felt could range from minutes to hours.
Complications
At times, symptoms of a serious nature may start surfacing in the later stages due to the extensive damage caused to the stomach lining. These symptoms include:
◘ Excruciating pain in the stomach
◘ Vomiting blood of a dark brown color
◘ Blood in stool
These symptoms could be a sign of complications such as bleeding, perforation, or obstruction of the contents of the stomach by the ulcer. Medical assistance must be sought as soon as the aforementioned symptoms begin to appear. Even at this point of time, the symptoms can be alleviated, provided medical help is sought immediately.
The following tests are usually conducted to diagnose this condition:
◘ Barium swallow
◘ Upper endoscopy
◘ Gastric tissue biopsy
◘ Gastrin test
◘ C14 breath test
Risk Factors
Those who have a family history of stomach ulcers are definitely susceptible, but there are other factors that may put a person at a risk for developing this condition. The risk factors include:
◘ Smoking
◘ Excessive consumption of alcohol
◘ Prolonged use of NSAIDs or corticosteroids
◘ Poor dietary habits
◘ Liver, kidney or lung problems
Treatment
◘ Antibiotics are prescribed when the ulcers form due to an infection by Helicobacter pylori. The dosage will vary, depending on the severity of the infection.
◘ At the same time, the doctor will also prescribe medication to reduce the production of stomach acid so as to ensure speedy recovery. Proton pump inhibitors and histamine-2 blockers refers to the class of drugs that decrease the production of stomach acid.
◘ Sucralfate refers to a cytoprotective agent that forms a barrier or coating over the ulcer, thereby speeding up the healing process.
Treatment will continue for two to three weeks. However, it will take a couple of months for the person to get cured completely. In severe cases, when there's bleeding or perforation in the stomach wall, surgery may be recommended.
Precautionary Measures
◘ Avoid smoking and consumption of alcohol.
◘ Do not take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
◘ Refrain from consuming spicy food. Many people believe that stomach ulcers are caused as a result of eating spicy food, which is not at all true. Spicy food can aggravate an already existing ulcer though.
◘ Helicobacter pylori bacteria could spread due to consumption of contaminated food and water, so take the necessary precautionary measures.
Don't resort to self-medication. If you opt for a wrong drug, you will just end up worsening your condition. While antacids are effective in providing relief from pain by raising the level of pH in the stomach, you need to understand that this relief is temporary. So, don't take antacids unless recommended by a doctor. Do contact your doctor if you have been experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms. Follow the guidelines regarding the frequency and dosage of the drug. This will surely pave the way for a speedy recovery.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.
Stomach - Peptic Ulcers
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Stomach Ulcer diagram human