Gastric ulcer, also known as stomach ulcer is open sores that develop on the lining of the stomach. Ulcers in the upper part of the small intestine are known as duodenal ulcers.
This ulceration is similar to the lesion left by a cigarette
but in contact with the skin. The corrosive action of acidic gastric juices
causes a gastric ulcer.
Gastric juices produced by the stomach are necessary to
digest food and to kill pathogens entering the digestive tract. These acids are
very corrosive and, for this reason, some specialized cells of the stomach
produce a layer of mucus and other useful substances to protect the gastric
Causes of Gastric ulcers
Ulcers occur when the layer that protects the stomach lining from gastric acid breaks down. This means that the stomach lining becomes damaged.
The most common causes are:
pylori (a type of bacteria)
anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and aspirin.
Spicy foods don’t cause ulcers, but they can worsen the symptoms.
Symptoms of Gastric Ulcer
The most common symptom of a gastric ulcer is a burning or
gnawing pain that develops in your tummy. Some gastric ulcers aren’t painful
and are only noticed when a complication of a gastric ulcer develops, such as
bleeding from the ulcer.
The pain caused by gastric ulcer can travel to your chest
and neck, bellybutton, or back.
It starts within a few hours of eating and can last from a
few minutes to a few hours. You may also wake up in pain throughout the night.
Less common symptoms of a gastric ulcer can include:
Feeling full and bloated, or belching
Loss of appetite
Not being able to tolerate fatty foods
Sometimes, gastric ulcers can lead to more serious symptoms, such as:
Sudden sharp pain in the stomach that gets worse
Blood in your stool or black stools.
Diagnosis of a Gastric Ulcer
Diagnosing a gastric ulcer is done using a range of methods,
Endoscopy – A thin flexible tube is with a tiny camera that’s passed into your mouth and down to your stomach under light anesthesia.
Barium meal – First a patient drink a chalky liquid and then x-ray is performed, showing the stomach lining. This test is only used if endoscopy is unavailable.
Biopsy – During an endoscopy, a small tissue sample is taken and tested in a laboratory. This biopsy should always be done if a stomach ulcer is found.
C14 Breath test – This Test checks for the presence of H. pylori bacteria. This bacterium converts urea into carbon dioxide. The test involves swallowing a sum of radioactive carbon (C14) and testing the air exhaled from the lungs. A non-radioactive test can uses for children and pregnant women.
Treatment for a gastric ulcer
Special diets are now known to have very little impact on
the prevention or treatment of gastric ulcers.
Treatment options can include:
Medication – including antibiotics medicines, to destroy the Helicobacter pylori bacteria, and drugs to help boost the healing process. Different drugs are needed to be used in combination; side effects (diarrhea and rashes). Resistance to some of these antibiotics is becoming more common.
Breath tests – Used to make sure the Helicobacter pylori infection has treated successfully
Reducing gastric acid – medicines is available, such as proton pump inhibitors to reduce the acid content in the gastric juices.
Complications of stomach ulcers are quite uncommon, but they
can be very serious and potentially life-threatening.
The main complications are:
Perforation (stomach lining at the site of the
ulcer splitting open)
Gastric obstruction (blocking the movement of
food through the digestive system)