WHAT IS A STOMACH ULCER ?
Stomach ulcers are the sores that are found on the lining of the stomach or in the small intestine. They are also the most common symptom for peptic ulcers. Stomach ulcers are caused when the thick mucus layer in the stomach, which protects the stomach from the digestive juices, reduces and the digestive acids attack the stomach lining. It can be cured if the patient seeks early treatment.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF STOMACH ULCERS ?
There are few causes that lead to stomach ulcer apart from the decrease in the mucosal lining in the stomach. They include :
- Hyperacidity: Excessive production of stomach acids. This may be because of the lifestyle habits such as drinking alcohol, smoking, genetics and food related reactions
- Bacterial: A bacterium called helicobacter pylori which causes stomach infections
- Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome: A condition where the stomach acids are produced in excess amounts
- Medications: Excessive consumption of certain drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin etc. could lead to stomach ulcers
WHAT ARE THE RISKS THAT MAY CONTRIBUTE TO STOMACH ULCERS ?
There are certain risks that add on to stomach ulcers. It is better to avoid them as a precautionary measure from preventing the onset of stomach ulcers.
- Excessive production of calcium in the body(a condition called hypercalcemia)
- Excessive consumption of steroids
- Long term usage of steroids
- People older than 50
- Being addicted to alcohol
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF STOMACH ULCER ?
The most common symptom is the pain between the chest and the area around the belly. The pain is severe and may last for a few minutes up to an hour making the patient extremely uncomfortable. A lot of symptoms attribute to stomach ulcers and they reveal the state or the condition of the stomach ulcer. Some of the symptoms are listed below :
- Weight loss
- Continuous or mild pain in the stomach
- Not wanting to eat because of the pain
- Acid reflux or continuous burping
- Burning sensation in the chest
- Feeling like the tummy being bloated
HOW IS STOMACH ULCER DIAGNOSED ?
Initial tests for stomach ulcer require blood, stool, and breathe test. In the breath test, the patient is asked to drink a clear liquid and blow into a bag provided by the hospital. The breath is examined to check for the presence of excess carbon-di- oxide. If there is excessive CO2, then it indicates stomach ulcer due to an infection caused by a bacterium called helicobacter pylori.
The other tests conducted to confirm the extent of ulcers include :
- Barium X-ray : X-ray is conducted after the patient swallows thick liquid called barium, which makes the small intestine and stomach visible on X-Rays.
- Endoscopy : A thin lighted tube with a camera is inserted which shows the presence of any ulcer.
- Endoscopic Biopsy : A tissue sample is removed from inside and is examined under the microscope through endoscopy procedure.
HOW IS STOMACH ULCER TREATED ?
Treatment varies depending on the severity of the condition. If ulcers are of moderate type then the patient will be put through a course of antibiotics. It is very necessary to treat an ulcer irrespective of it being mild or severe. The other non-surgical treatments include :
- Antibiotics for H. Pylori infections
- Proton PumpInhibitors to stop the cells from producing excess acid
- H2 Blockers to prevent the stomach from making too much of acid
- Over the counter antacids to bring the stomach acids under neutral
- Cyto-protective agents to protect the mucosal lining in the intestine and the stomach
The symptoms may ease out after a few days of medications but the antibiotic course must be completed as the infection caused by H. Pylori may remain. It may get active again after stopping the consumption of medicines. The doctors will also insist on quitting smoking and avoid drinking alcohol or any medications or foods that may react or aggravate the condition. Side effects of medications would be dizziness, head ache, diarrhoea, and nausea which are temporary. If it is causing severe discomfort, inform the doctor he will change the medicines.
Sometimes, when the ulcers don’t heal through medications, a surgical intervention may become necessary. The surgery is conducted to remove the entire ulcer, knotting a bleeding artery, patching and stitching up the ulcer site after taking it from another part of the intestine, cutting of the nerve that is promoting excess production of stomach acids.
WHAT ARE THE COMPLICATIONS ASSOCIATED WITH STOMACH ULCERS ?
When doctors diagnose stomach ulcer, look out for the following red flags :
- Sudden sharp pain in the stomach
- Black stools
- Bloody stools
- Blood in vomit
The symptoms may also because of erosion or a rupture in the stomach or due to a broken blood vessel. A scar tissue might have developed. Visit the physician if you experience any of the above symptoms. Sometimes, medications may not help you heal from a stomach ulcer. You may have to get an intensive treatment for your stomach ulcer in the care of a hospital.
HOW CAN WE PREVENT STOMACH ULCERS ?
Self-hygiene is one basic thing that one has to practice. Wash hands neatly before and after visit to wash rooms. Clean the veggies, the vessels, and anything raw that goes into recipe and cook the food properly to soft and edible state.
Discuss with the doctor to stop taking any NSAIDs or decrease the doses and avoid drinking alcohol when taking these medications. Do not stress over anything. Exercise regularly or practice a sport. Avoid consuming any tobacco products. All of the positive changes along with the medications or a treatment will help recover from stomach ulcers.
Why KIMS ?
KIMS offers exceptional care for patients with gastrointestinal, pancreatic and hepatobiliary disorders, as well as aerodigestive disorders.
Our Gastroenterology Procedure Unit specializes in stomach ulcers and our ongoing research projects include use of endoscopic ultrasound and sedation for procedures to help heal stomach ulcers. Our doctors, nurses, and endoscopy technicians support the day-to- day practice of the unit. Our team also assists in the care of patient with life-threatening cases of stomach ulcers with intensive care surgery.