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Stomach ulcers, which are also known as gastric ulcers, are painful sores in the stomach lining. Stomach ulcers are a type of peptic ulcer disease. Peptic ulcers are any ulcers that affect both the stomach and small intestines.
Stomach ulcers occur when the thick layer of mucus that protects your stomach from digestive juices is reduced. This allows the digestive acids to eat away at the tissues that line the stomach, causing an ulcer.
Stomach ulcers may be easily cured, but they can become severe without proper treatment.
Stomach ulcers are almost always caused by one of the following:
Rarely, a condition known as Zollinger-Ellison syndrome can cause stomach and intestinal ulcers by increasing the body’s production of acid. This syndrome is suspected to cause less than 1 percent of all peptic ulcers.
A number of symptoms are associated with stomach ulcers. The severity of the symptoms depends on the severity of the ulcer.
The most common symptom is a burning sensation or pain in the middle of your abdomen between your chest and belly button. Typically, the pain will be more intense when your stomach is empty, and it can last for a few minutes to several hours.
Other common signs and symptoms of ulcers include:
Talk to your doctor if you have any symptoms of a stomach ulcer. Even though discomfort may be mild, ulcers can worsen if they aren’t treated. Bleeding ulcers can become life-threatening.
Diagnosis and treatment will depend on your symptoms and the severity of your ulcer. To diagnose a stomach ulcer, your doctor will review your medical history along with your symptoms and any prescription or over-the-counter medications you’re taking.
To rule out H. pylori infection, a blood, stool, or breath test may be ordered. With a breath test, you’ll be instructed to drink a clear liquid and breathe into a bag, which is then sealed. If H. pylori is present, the breath sample will contain higher-than-normal levels of carbon dioxide.
Other tests and procedures used to diagnose stomach ulcers include:
Treatment will vary depending on the cause of your ulcer. Most ulcers can be treated with a prescription from your doctor, but in rare cases, surgery may be required.
It’s important to promptly treat an ulcer. Talk to your doctor to discuss a treatment plan. If you have an actively bleeding ulcer, you’ll likely be hospitalized for intensive treatment with endoscopy and IV ulcer medications. You may also require a blood transfusion.
In addition to these treatments, your doctor may also recommend:
Symptoms of an ulcer may subside quickly with treatment. But even if your symptoms disappear, you should continue to take any medication prescribed by your doctor. This is especially important with H. pylori infections, to make sure that all bacteria are eliminated.
Side effects of medications used to treat stomach ulcers can include:
These side effects are typically temporary. If any of these side effects cause extreme discomfort, talk to your doctor about changing your medication.
In very rare cases, a complicated stomach ulcer will require surgery. This may be the case for ulcers that:
Surgery may include:
In the past, it was thought that diet could cause ulcers. We know now this isn’t true. We also know that while the foods you eat won’t cause or cure a stomach ulcer, eating a healthful diet can benefit your intestinal tract and overall health. In general, it’s a good idea to eat a diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, and fiber.
That said, it’s possible that some foods play a role in eliminating H. pylori. Foods that may help fight off H. pylori or boost the body’s own healthy bacteria include:
If you think you have a stomach ulcer, these may be good foods to add to your daily diet. Learn more about foods that may be good for stomach ulcers — and foods that may not be.
In addition to eating healthy foods, the following items may help reduce the effects of H. pylori, the bacteria responsible for many stomach ulcers. However, these supplements are not intended to replace prescription medication or your current treatment plan. They include:
Your doctor may also have suggestions for things you can do at home to relieve discomfort from your ulcer. You can also talk to your doctor about these natural and home remedies for ulcers.
If you think you have a stomach ulcer, call your doctor. Together you can discuss your symptoms and treatment options. It’s important to get a stomach ulcer taken care of because without treatment, ulcers and H. pylori can cause:
Symptoms of these complications can include those listed below. If you have any of these symptoms, be sure to call you doctor right away:
To prevent the spread of bacteria that might cause a stomach ulcer, wash your hands with soap and water on a regular basis. Also, be sure to properly clean all of your food and to cook it thoroughly as needed.
To prevent ulcers caused by NSAIDs, stop using these medications (if possible) or limit their use. If you need to take NSAIDs, be sure to follow the recommended dosage and avoid alcohol while taking these medications. And always take these medications with food and adequate liquids.
Written by: Shannon Johnsonon: Jul 26, 2017
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