A picture displaying stomach ulcers

Stomach ulcers are painful sores that develop on the stomach lining. It is also called gastric ulcer. Ulcer can also occur in the intestine and are called duodenal ulcers. Stomach and duodenal ulcers are called pectic ulcers.

How Stomach Ulcer is formed
The stomach produces strong acids or digestive juices to help digestion and at the same time it produces a mucus layer to protect the stomach lining from being damaged by the strong acids. But when the mucus layer becomes thin or wears out the strong acids produced by the stomach will damage the lining of the stomach causing ulcers

Causes of Stomach Ulcers

There are two major things that can cause ulcers:
  •  Infection with Helicobacter pylon(H. plyon) bacteria: This bacteria can be present in the stomach without causing any trouble but some cases it will break down the mucus layer protecting the stomach lining and then the strong acids produced by the stomach will damage the stomach causing ulcer.
  • Using NSAIDs drugs: NSAIDs is the acronym for Non- steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. They are medicines used to treat pain, fever and inflammation. The commonly used NSAIDs includes:
  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Diclofenac
NSAIDs in the process of carrying out it’s function can block the body’s ability to produce a chemical that helps to protect the stomach lining from being damaged by the digestive juices
  • Zollinger- Ellison Syndrome: This condition occurs when one or more tumors develops in the pancreas and duodonum. This tumors can cause the stomach to produce large amount of acids that can damage the stomach lining. It can also lead to stomach cancer although it is a rare condition.
There is little evidence that spicey foods and stress can cause stomach ulcers.
Risk factors 
The following factors raises your risk for stomach ulcers:
  • Smoking cigarettes or chewing of tobacco
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Family history of ulcers
  • Radiation treatments
  • Serious medical illness
Symptoms of Stomach Ulcers
The most common symptom of ulcer is a burning sensation or pain at the center of the abdomen.
Other symptoms includes
  • Heartburn 
  • Indigestion
  • Bloating
  • Weight loss
  • Chest pain
  • Dark or black stools
  • Vomiting blood 
  • Not eating because of pain
  • Fatigue
  • Pain that may leave when you eat or drink
  • Feeling of fullness and problems drinking as much fluids as usual
  • Anemia
The pain of ulcer tends to be become more intense when the stomach is empty.
Small ulcers may not cause symptoms but if you experience any of the symptoms above visit your doctor.
How Stomach Ulcer is diagnosed
The diagnosis for stomach ulcers  depends on the severity of the ulcer.
The doctor will make a review of your medical history, the symptoms and the over- the counter drugs you have been taking.
To test for the presence of H. plyon infection, the doctor will collect your blood or stool sample for examination or do a breath test. To carry out the breath test the doctor will give you a clear liquid to drink and you will breath into a bag that will then be sealed. If the breath sample contains more than the normal level of carbondioxide, H. pylon is present.
Other methods to diagnose stomach ulcers
  • Endoscopy : Endoscopy is done by the doctor inserting a thin lighted tubule with small mirrors or cameras into the stomach or the upper part of the small intestine. This will enable the doctor to see the stomach lining and the upper part of the small intestine.
  • Barium Swallow: This test is carried out by the doctor giving you a thick white liquid (Barium) to swallow. The liquid will coat your gastrointestinal tract and this will allow x-rays to be taken of the stomach and small intestine.
Treatments of stomach ulcers
The kind of treatment for stomach ulcer depends on the severity of the ulcer and what caused the stomach ulcer.
  • If the ulcer is caused by H.pylon bacteria the doctor will prescribe antibiotics for you to clear off the bacteria.
  • If the ulcer is caused by by NSAIDs the doctor will prescribe Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) to treat the ulcer. PPIs include lansoprazole (Prevacid), omeprazole (Prilosec), pantoprazole (Protonix), rabeprazole (AcipHex), and esomeprazole (Nexium). PPI drugs will block acid – producing cells in the stomach.
 Other drugs includes
  • H2 receptor antagonists: These drugs can be use to stop the stomach from producing excess acids. The H2 receptor antagonists includes Cimetidine, Famotidine, Nizatidine.
  • Atarcids: Atarcids can help to provide temporary relief from ulcer pains.
Surgical Treatment 
Surgery may be needed if
  • if the ulcer do not heal
  • continues to return after treatments.
  • bleed.
  • perforates the stomach.
  • prevents food from flowing out from the stomach to the small intestine.
 Surgery can be done 
  • To remove the ulcer.
  • To cut off the nerve that controls stomach acid production.
  • Tying the blood vessels that are bleeding
  • Taking tissue from another part of the small intestine and sewing it over the ulcer area
 Complications of untreated Stomach Ulcers
When ulcer is not treated it can cause the following complications
  • Bleeding from the ulcer which can be life – threatening.
  • Perforation or holes in the wall of the digestive tract. 
  • Blockage of the digestive tract which is as a result of the swelling of inflamed tissues. This can block the movement of food through the digestive system.
  • Stomach cancer.
Preventions of Stomach Ulcers
  • To prevent an infection with the bacteria H. pylon that causes stomach ulcers wash your hands before eating or after using the bathroom. Wash your food and cook it properly before eating to kill any bacteria.
  • Reduce or stop using NSAIDs. If you must use them follow the prescriptions from your doctor. Avoid alcohol while taking these drugs.

By Ekene Arodiogbu

Ekene Arodiogbu is the CEO of Excedel World. He loves to listen to good music and watch movies in his spare time.

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