Stomach ulcers is a common medical condition in humans and studies show that more than ten percent of the population suffer from it. Stomach ulcer (otherwise known as peptic ulcer) is a term, which is collectively used to refer to the ulcers of the esophagus (lower part), stomach and duodenum. While ulcers of the stomach are termed gastric ulcers, those of the duodenum and esophagus are called duodenal and esophageal ulcers respectively.
The most common among them are duodenal ulcers, and esophageal ulcers are very rare. There are various factors that can cause suchulcers. These include stress, regular use of some medication like NSAIDs, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and helicobacter pylori infection. Studies show that in most cases, bacterial infection or certain medication are among the common stomach ulcer causes.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms may vary from one person to another depending upon various factors, like the location of the ulcer, the causal agent and the health condition of the patient.
The most common among stomach ulcer symptoms and signs is abdominal pain, which is often described as sharp, burning and gnawing in nature. Such pain, which is termed as episodic epigastric pain, may occur at any location between the navel and the lower part of the breast bone. In some people, this pain may last for a few hours, whereas others may experience it for a few minutes only. The pain may worsen at night
- This type of abdominal pain is often associated with consumption of food. In case of gastric ulcers, the pain worsens with consumption of food, whereas pain caused by duodenal ulcers develop when the stomach is empty. In some cases, the pain may disappear for a few days or weeks to return later.
- One of the complications associated with stomach ulcers is severe and unbearable abdominal pain that develops all of a sudden. This is due to the perforation of the stomach, esophageal or duodenal wall by ulcers and this condition can lead to peritonitis (inflammation of the inner lining of the abdominal cavity). Such perforated ulcers require immediate medical attention.
Weight loss/Weight gain
While some people with these ulcers develop loss of appetite and weight loss, others experience weight gain. The latter category includes people with duodenal ulcers as the symptoms of this condition are relieved by consumption of food. The former category includes people with gastric ulcers.
Apart from the above said, there are various other stomach ulcer symptoms. They include indigestion, constant discomfort in the stomach, abdominal bloating, burping, heartburn and nausea or vomiting. Severe peptic ulcer symptoms include recurrent sharp pain in the stomach, blood in vomit, bloody or tarry stool, anemia and lightheadedness.
Stomach ulcers are diagnosed with endoscopy and X-rays. Helicobacter pylori infection has to be ruled out with blood test, stool test or breath test. While mild to moderate symptoms can be relieved with antacids, severe ones need immediate medical attention. Stomach ulcer treatment is based on the location of the ulcer, causal agent and severity of symptoms. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, the course of treatment is decided.
Usually, medication like antacids are used for treating the condition. Antibiotics (in case of bacterial infection) and acid blockers are also used for this purpose. While bleeding ulcer treatment includes clipping of the area, injection for stopping bleeding or cauterization, perforated ones require immediate surgical treatment.
In short, stomach ulcer symptoms and signs may vary from one person to another. These symptoms may also be mistaken for some other medical conditions, like GERD. So, correct diagnosis is necessary to identify the condition. Early diagnosis and timely treatment is always beneficial to prevent complications.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.