Ulcers are very common in humans, especially middle-aged people. Peptic ulcers develop on the mucous membrane that lines the inner surfaces of the stomach and the duodenum. Esophageal ulcers form in the esophagus. Ulcers in the stomach are called gastric ulcers, and those in the duodenum are called duodenal ulcers. While duodenal ulcers are far more common than gastric ulcers, esophageal ulcers are rare. It has been observed that alcohol abuse is a major cause for ulcers in the esophagus. Peptic ulcers are usually associated with Helicobacter pylori infection or long-term use of NSAIDs. Ulcers can cause various symptoms, and abdominal pain is the most common one. Ulcers can also cause back pain, which is a symptom that is usually associated with other medical conditions.
The most common symptom of a peptic ulcer is abdominal pain, which may be relieved with food consumption. The pain is often described as a burning or gnawing sensation, or as a feeling of hunger. Such pain is a classic symptom of duodenal ulcers. The pain may reappear 2 to 3 hours after having food. It may also awaken the person during midnight. In case of gastric ulcers, food consumption may not relieve the pain. In fact, intake of food may worsen the pain in some people.
Ulcers and Back Pain:
In some cases, abdominal pain caused by ulcers may radiate to the back and result in mid to low back pain. Usually, such pain lasts for a short duration, but some people experience intermittent back pain for a few days or even weeks. Excruciating and persistent back pain could be a sign of a perforating peptic ulcer that penetrates the pancreas. This condition needs immediate medical assistance in order to avoid further complications. Those who experience back pain due to ulcers may not be able to recall any event or injury that triggered such pain. Sometimes, they may relate the pain with intake of food.
Apart from the pain in the abdomen, ulcers may also cause loss of appetite, weight loss, bloating, nausea, and vomiting. More serious symptoms are vomiting blood, frequent abdominal pain, blood in stools, etc. Ulcers may cause internal hidden bleeding, which can lead to anemia, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Some people may not experience any symptom at all. Such silent ulcers are usually seen in diabetics and elderly people. Those who are using NSAIDs for a long duration may also have such asymptomatic ulcers.
Usually, antacids, proton pump inhibitors, and H2 blockers are prescribed for treating ulcers. Proton pump inhibitors block acid production and promote healing, whereas antacids neutralize stomach acids. Even H2 blockers reduce production of acids in the stomach. Antibiotics are recommended for those with Helicobacter pylori infection. For best results, medications have to be taken according to the directions of the healthcare provider. A healthy, balanced diet is often recommended for those with stomach ulcers. Quitting smoking and excess alcohol consumption may also prove beneficial to a great extent.
It is advisable to seek medical attention, as soon as you notice such symptoms, and get the condition diagnosed and treated at the earliest. As mentioned above, back pain can be a symptom of underlying medical conditions like ulcers. So, don't ignore the symptom, as it can lead to complications.
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.