Have you ever felt a sharp pain in the pit of your stomach, following which the pain has subsided, coming back only when you eat again for a brief period? Does this situation sound familiar? If it does, then the chances are high that you may have stomach ulcers. The upcoming sections of the article will help you understand what are peptic ulcers, their symptoms, causes and treatment.
What Is a Peptic Ulcer
A peptic ulcer is, in the most elementary terms, called stomach ulcers. They are also referred to as gastric ulcers. The lining of the stomach or the duodenum becomes sore. The duodenum is the initial segment of the small intestine. A peptic ulcer is called a gastric ulcer, and the ulcer that erodes the lining of the duodenum is called the duodenal ulcer. In certain cases, you may find that they have also developed in the esophagus, the tube or the pipe that carries the food from the mouth to the stomach.
The most prominent cause is the bacterium called Helicobacter pylori or H. pylori. This is the bacterium that creates damage when it attacks the stomach lining and destroys it. An excess of stomach acid also causes peptic ulcers. This attack causes the stomach lining to weaken and completely destruct the lining of the stomach. The soft tissues that are situated below the lining come in contact with the strong stomach acids that are produced in excess.
The acid that is evicted can cause constant irritation and as time elapses, sores begin to form. Prolonged use of anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen can also cause them to build up and destruct the lining of the stomach. Stress and spicy food is not the cause of developing peptic ulcers; however, it may contribute in worsening and aggravating the situation.
When you are struck by peptic ulcers, it is always better to visit a health care professional, so that the ulcers can be cured quickly with the pain and discomfort not bothering you at all. The situation can be brought in complete control when medication is prescribed and followed for a stipulated period.
There are some symptoms that are less severe in nature, thus they could be termed prodromal symptoms that you may encounter. The most prevalent symptom is the burning sensation in the stomach. The pain may erupt anywhere between the belly button and the breastbone. You will experience pain that -
- Erupts in between meals;
- Generally starts post dinnertime;
- Stops with antacids and provides temporary relief;
- Lasts for a brief period (may range from an hour to three hours or so);
- Recurs within a period of days or weeks.
Other symptoms that may mark the severity include -
- Unexplained weight loss;
- Poor appetite;
- Sharp, throbbing pain that may wake you up during nighttime;
- Bloating (feeling full);
- Having an insipid, almost acidic taste in the mouth;
- Burping with regurgitation of food;
- Discomfort accompanied with profuse perspiration;
- Vomiting fresh blood or dark, brown-colored blood
- A sense of discomfort in the stomach;
- Traces of blood found in stools indicating a bleeding sore.
These symptoms may occur if and when an ulcer has -
- Broken a blood vessel;
- Perforated or made a hole through your stomach or duodenal wall;
- Proving to be an obstruction for your food to travel from your stomach into the duodenum.
Difference between Stomach Ulcers and Heartburn
In most cases, a major symptom that indicates the presence of ulcers is confused with general heartburn and indigestion. The burning sensation in the stomach is almost annoying, making you feel uncomfortable. However, when this sensation lasts for more than 30-40minutes extending to 3 or 4 hours, it is indeed a matter of concern. The most important characteristic is its inconsistent onset. The pain may simmer for a week or a few weeks together, and one may experience no pain at all for weeks together. With stomach ulcers, one may feel a 'vacuum effect' of sorts.
There is an emptiness at the pit of the stomach, making you feel that your system is experiencing hunger pangs. With this impression, one may end up eating in excess. The discomfort and vacuuming effect may be put to rest for a while. It is due to this reason that some people may gain weight. The issue of weight gain is faced by cases who have duodenal ulcers. However, in some cases the pain may increase after eating and in some, the pain may appear hours after one has consumed meals.
One may feel that the consumption of antacids and milk are necessary and beneficial in curing stomach ulcers. However, research holds testimony to the fact that antacids are a mode of procuring temporary relief. The same goes for consumption of milk. It is only relief that milk may provide, however, it is not a cure for the ulcers.
Antacids are proven to relieve the pain; however, it fails to treat the root cause of stomach ulcers - Helicobacter pylori bacteria infection. It is only when antibiotics are prescribed and ingested that the infection is dealt with. With milk consumption, temporary relief will be attained, however, one is at a risk of increasing acid in the stomach. When the consistency of acid increases in the stomach, one poses the risk of aggravating the existent condition of stomach ulcers.
It would be to your advantage if you consult a trusted practitioner if you have been enduring any recurrent symptoms. Fixing an appointment for an expert consult will rule out serious doubts on the condition you endure.
If H. pylori is found to be the cause of stomach ulcers, you would be given drugs to fight and kill the bacterium that is present. Before any medication is prescribed, the doctor will confirm his findings by conducting an endoscopy and this endoscopy will reveal and reconfirm his results. When drugs are administered they are meant to reduce the acid reflux in the stomach so that the ulcer can be cured and the infection does not occur. If the ulcers are at an elementary stage the medication prescribed will be very less in terms of dosage.
However, if they have managed to spread, the medication provided would include high dosage which may also involve certain side effects such as vomiting, having an acidic and metallic taste in the mouth, weight loss for no apparent reason, diarrhea, nausea and severe headache. Treatment will carry on for two to three weeks and may take longer if they have spread to a larger area. Within a couple of months you will be completely cured.
In certain rare cases, if the ulcers do not heal with the antibiotic prescribed there are probabilities that your doctor may ask you to resort to a surgery. But these cases are extremely rare, and if the medications prescribed are followed by the patient it will treat the condition thoroughly well.
If you feel that you have any of the above mentioned symptoms, consult the medical practitioner without any delay. Do not resort to self-medication. This may worsen the situation and get you in trouble as your condition would take longer to heal if you procrastinate to schedule an appointment with your doctor. It is better to be safe than sorry, right!