Stomach Ulcer: not your common stomach ache

A stomach ulcer has oftentimes been misinterpreted as a normal stomach ache. It is important to identify one’s condition correctly before certain medical complications, such as bleeding at the site of the ulcer, perforation, and gastric obstruction arise. While these complications are relatively uncommon, there is still the possibility of them happening and they can be life-threatening.

What is a stomach ulcer?

Stomach ulcers, also known as gastric ulcers, are open and painful sores that develop inside the lining of one’s stomach. Normally, a thick layer of mucus protects the stomach lining from the digestive juices.  However, when the mucus is reduced, it allows the digestive juices to damage the stomach lining.

There are two main causes of stomach ulcers:

  • Infection with bacteria. This bacteria is known as Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a bacteria that only infects the stomach tissues and is presumably acquired through food, water and close contact (ex. kissing). While most people infected with this bacteria do not get ulcers, in others, it can raise acid levels, break down the layer of mucus, and irritate one’s digestive tract.
  • Regular intake of certain pain relievers and medication. As stated, if an individual has been taking aspirin or any other prescription pain medications, the individual is more likely to get a stomach ulcer. These medications are also called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and these drugs can impair the barrier properties of the mucosa and irritate or inflame the lining of the stomach.

While living an unhealthy lifestyle isn’t one of the main causes of stomach ulcers, it is also observed that excessive smoking of cigarettes and drinking of alcohol Predisposes one to develop Gastric ulcer. Smoking may increase the risk of stomach ulcers in people who are infected by H. pylori and alcohol can irritate and erode the protective mucus of the stomach while increasing its acid levels.

What are the symptoms of stomach ulcers?

The symptoms of stomach ulcers could be hard to track as in most cases, there won’t be any symptoms present at all. The most common feeling an individual can look out for is a burning feeling in one’s stomach area. The pain is worse between meals and at night. It is relieved by eating or by taking an acid-reducing medication.

There are also other several common symptoms such as:

  • Bloating or belching
  • Intolerance to fatty foods
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Blood found in feces
  • Vomiting

How do we treat stomach ulcers?

It is important to have a consultation first so that your doctor would be able to arrive at a proper diagnosis.  If warranted, diagnostic tests can be done to confirm the condition.

Treatment will depend on the cause of the ulcer.  Usual treatment would entail medications that will block acid production and promote healing of the stomach lining (Protom-pump inhibitors or PPI like Pantoprazole, Esomeprazole, Omeprazole); medications that would reduce acid production (H2 blockers like Famotidine or Cimetidine); medications that will neutralize stomach acid (like Maalox). For confirmed H.pylori infections, your doctor will prescribe an additional antibiotic.

If you find yourself suffering from the same symptoms listed above, reach out to our specialist doctors here at Medgate for proper consultation, care and treatment.