IS THE PAIN TOO EXCRUCIATING? WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT STOMACH ULCERS
Stomach ulcers are also called peptic ulcers. You have a peptic ulcer if you get open sores in the lining of your stomach or the upper part of the small intestine. That happens when your stomach acids etch away your digestive tract’s protective layer of mucus. You may have no symptoms, or you may feel discomfort or burning pain. Peptic ulcers can lead to internal bleeding, which sometimes can mean you’ll need blood transfusions in the hospital. You can have two types of peptic ulcer disease:
- Gastric ulcer. You get this on your stomach lining.
- Duodenal ulcer. This appears at the top end of the small intestine, an organ that digests and absorbs much of the food you eat.
What causes stomach ulcers?
Ulcers form when digestive juices damage the walls of the stomach or small intestine. If the mucus layer gets too thin or your stomach makes too much acid, your gut will feel it. The two major causes are:
- Bacteria. It’s called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), and as many as half of us carry it. Most people infected with H. pylori do not get ulcers. But in others, it can raise the amount of acid, break down the protective mucus layer, and irritate the digestive tract. Experts aren’t sure how H. pylori infection spreads. They think it may pass from person to person through close contact, like kissing. You may also get it from unclean food and water.
- Certain pain relievers. If you’ve been taking aspirin often and for a long time, you’re more likely to get a peptic ulcer. The same is true for other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They include ibuprofen and naproxen. NSAIDs block your body from making a chemical that helps protect the inner walls of your stomach and small intestine from stomach acid. Other types of pain meds, such as acetaminophen, won’t lead to peptic ulcers.
Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol also can make you more likely to get ulcers. Stress and eating a lot of spicy food don’t cause ulcers, as experts once thought. But they can make ulcers worse and harder to treat.
What are the symptoms of stomach ulcers disease?
Some people do not have symptoms. In others, symptoms may come and go. Symptoms may be:
1 Burning stomach pain that:
- May wake a person up from sleeping.
- May last a few minutes or many hours.
- Empty stomach but better after eating or drinking.
- Feels better after taking antacids.
2. Nausea and vomiting
3. Lack of hunger
- Feeling of fullness
Ulcers can cause bleeding. It is rare but heavier bleeding can cause:
- Bloody or black, tarry stools.
- Vomiting that looks like coffee grounds or blood.
How is stomach ulcers diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, whether you take NSAIDs and other drugs, and medical history. She’ll also check you for bloating in the belly and pain. That may be enough to make a diagnosis. The only way your doctor can tell for sure if you have an ulcer is to look. She may use a series of X-rays or a test called an endoscopy. This test allows her to pass a thin, bendy tube down your throat and into your stomach and small intestine. The tube has a camera at the end so she can check the lining for ulcers. She may also take a small piece of the lining to test for H. pylori. Blood, breath, and stool sample tests also can screen for the bacteria.
What are the treatment options for stomach ulcers?
Some peptic ulcers heal on their own. But if you don’t treat them, the ulcers tend to come back. They can erode the blood vessel wall in your stomach or small intestine. The ulcers also can eat a hole through the lining and get infected. Or they can cause swelling, which may block food from moving from your stomach into your small intestine.
Peptic ulcers are treated with lifestyle changes and medicine. Some people may need surgery. The goals of treatment are to:
Clear an H. pylori infection if present
- Ease symptoms
- Help ulcers heal
- Avoid health problems, such as bleeding
- Lower the risk of ulcers coming back
Medications are usually used to treat mild-to-moderate ulcers. If the cause is bacterial, antibiotics can help cure the ulcer. For recurrent, severe cases that do not respond to medication, surgery may be necessary. Although alternative therapies have been shown to aid in the relief of symptoms, they should be used only as supplements to conventional treatment. You should not treat an ulcer on your own without first seeing your doctor. Over-the-counter antacids and acid blockers may relieve some or all of the pain, but the relief is always short-lived. With a doctor’s help, you can find relief from the ulcer pain, as well as a lifelong cure from the disease.
Surgical treatment of peptic ulcers is reserved for ulcer disease unresponsive to medical management or emergency treatment of complications, such as bleeding. If your ulcer is hemorrhaging, the surgeon will identify the source of the bleeding (usually a small artery at the base of the ulcer) and repair it. Perforated ulcers – holes in the entire stomach or duodenal wall — must be surgically closed. This is an emergent procedure. In some cases, an elective surgery to decrease stomach acid secretion may be necessary. However, you should have an in-depth discussion with your doctor as there are many potential complications associated with the procedures, including ulcer recurrence, liver complications, and ”dumping syndrome,” which cause chronic abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and/or sweating after eating.
These Tips for will come in handy if you are living with Ulcers
- If you have an ulcer, be cautious when choosing over-the-counter pain relievers. Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen may not only irritate the ulcer but also prevent a bleeding ulcer from healing. Avoid powdered headache medication as well, which usually contain powdered aspirin. Your best choice may be acetaminophen, which does not cause or promote stomach ulcers.
- Don’t overdose on iron supplements. Although people with bleeding ulcers can develop anemia and may need to take iron as a treatment, taking too much can irritate the stomach lining and the ulcer. Ask your doctor how much iron you need.
- Learn how to deal with stress. Practicing relaxation techniques — including deep breathing, guided imagery, and moderate exercise — can help alleviate stress and promote healing.
A lot of you have been asking if there is a perfect diet for people living with ulcers. While it is much exaggerated to say that there is a “perfect” diet for peptic ulcers, or for any other condition, certain foods are considered to irritate the stomach lining while others are well tolerated. We shall compile a list of what we think you should avoid in our next edition of gastrointestinal publication. As a general precaution, lower your alcohol consumption if you have ulcers. Men should take at most two beers per day, and one for women. Remember, that this information does not substitute your doctor’s advice, but for educational purposes. Keep it here and you will always stay well and healthy.