Stomach ulcers develop on the inside wall of the stomach and are small sores that can bleed and negatively impact your quality of life. A stomach ulcer can develop due to excess acid accumulating in your stomach and eroding the protective layer of mucous on the stomach wall. Smoking, drinking alcohol and high levels of stress are considered to increase you risk of developing a stomach ulcer.
Causes And Symptoms
Stomach ulcers can be caused by Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), which is a bacteria that can alter the stomach environment and create inflammation. Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories has also been attributed to the development of stomach ulcers, as these drugs can alter the acid levels in the stomach.
Common symptoms of a stomach ulcer include bloating, frequent burping, experiencing burning pain in the stomach, heartburn, feeling full and nausea. Some people with stomach ulcers are unable to tolerate fatty spicy foods, and eating these foods may worsen their symptoms significantly. A stomach ulcer may also lead to weight loss, anaemia and passing blood when you open your bowels.
Diagnosis And Treatment
A stomach ulcer is typically diagnosed by your doctor taking details of your symptoms and undergoing diagnostic testing. Blood, stool and breath testing can be used to check for the presence of H. pylori. If these tests are non-conclusive then you may be referred for an endoscopy. This involves having a thin tube passed down your throat and into your stomach. A tiny camera on the end of the tube transmits images to a monitor and allows your doctor to see the inside of your stomach clearly.
The treatment your doctor will recommend for your stomach ulcer will depend on the identified cause. A course of antibiotics will be required to kill an H. pylori infection, and you will typically require more than one type of antibiotic to fight off this bacterium. Proton pump inhibitors are a group of medicines used to reduce the amount of stomach acid you produce. Antacids may also be beneficial, and these drugs work by neutralising the acid in your stomach. Cytoprotective drugs can be used to protect the lining of your stomach and can be beneficial for those who can't take proton pump inhibitors.
When stomach ulcers are left untreated they may increase your risk of developing gastric cancer or cause a stomach perforation, which can be life-threatening. Treatment is associated with high recovery rates, so if you think you could have a stomach ulcer, consult a gastroenterologist as soon as possible.
Reach out to a medical service like Ologist to learn more.