When the stomach lining breaks or develops a hole at a certain point, a gastric ulcer forms. These damaged areas are also known as peptic ulcers and cause a lot of pain. Symptoms indicating the development of an ulcer include fatigue, blood in your stool, nausea, pain in the abdomen, regular heartburn and unexplained weight loss. Occasionally a gastric ulcer causes no symptoms.
Risks Related To Gastric Ulcers
There are a handful of different issues that lead to this condition, including:
- Regular use of NSAIDs and aspirin
- Issues with proper blood clotting
- Chronic gastritis
- Aging, which weakens the stomach lining
- Helicobacter pylori infections, a bacteria interfering with the stomach lining
- Mechanical ventilation to treat lung conditions
- Chronic smoking
Most patients experience pain in their stomach a few hours after a meal. Going without food often worsens the pain, especially during the night. If the pain is relieved by drinking milk or taking an antacid it could still be an ulcer. Stress is not known to be a singular cause of the condition, nor has it been shown to aggravate a gastric ulcer. Do not try to self-diagnose your abdominal pain, and seek medical attention.
Gastic Ulcer Diagnosis Process
When you complain of these symptoms to a doctor, he or she will start with a full physical examination. They will also take your medical history to rule out other common diseases and conditions. If you are experiencing constant fullness, distention in the stomach and heartburn on a daily basis, see a doctor to try and catch an ulcer before it fully develops.
Doctors that suspect the presence of an ulcer order the barium test. The patient swallows barium, which gathers in an opening like the gastic ulcer and shows it on an X-ray. Severe symptoms interfere with this test. Some blood tests, like a serologic measurement, helps catch signs of infection like a count of elevated white blood cell levels. The carbon 12 urea breath test determines if the H. pylori bacteria is causing the problem.
Treatments vary depending on the cause. Medications like simple antacids heal minor gastric ulcers without disrupting your lifestyle. Quitting smoking or avoiding alcohol and caffeine stops the aggravation and pain of an inflamed ulcer. Affected patients should also stop taking aspirin and other blood thinning pain killers.
Bleeding ulcers require an endoscopic procedure to help seal up the opening. If this doesn’t work, surgery is recommended for removing the ulcerated portion of the stomach lining. The healthy parts of the stomach are closed up and the patient has no serious permanent effects if it heals correctly. Ulcers caused by too much stomach acid require the vagus nerve to be severed to stop the problem. Antibiotics targeted to kill H. pylori bacteria wipe out the infection. Doctors pair a round of the drugs with antacids to allow the stomach lining to heal as the bacteria dies. Occasionally, gastric ulcers are mistaken for other stomach problems like colon cancer, celiac disease or Crohn’s disease.