What is a stomach ulcer?
A stomach or peptic ulcer is a painful sore which appears in the stomach lining or the upper portion of the small intestine (duodenum). You develop an ulcer when your protective layer of mucous becomes vulnerable. Consequently, stomach acids seep in and inflict serious damage.
There are two types of stomach ulcers:
- Gastric ulcer: This ulcer develops in the stomach lining.
- Duodenal ulcer: This ulcer develops in the upper portion of the small intestine.
Stomach ulcer symptoms include:
- Intense or burning pain in your upper or middle stomach
- Intermittent pain which goes away after eating or consuming an antacid
- Nausea or vomiting
In more serious cases, symptoms such as dark or black stool and weight loss can manifest.
What causes stomach ulcers?
Approximately 10 percent of the general population have stomach ulcer.
Risk factors include:
- Incessant use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or painkillers
- Family history of ulcers
- Liver, kidney, or lung disorder
- Frequent alcohol consumption
Stomach ulcer has two main causes:
- H. pylori bacteria: This bacteria latches on to a mucous layer in the digestive tract and causes inflammation which weakens your stomach’s protective lining. Consequently, stomach acid damages your stomach tissue. However, only 10 to 15 percent of individuals with H. pylori bacteria develop stomach ulcers.
- Pain relievers: Frequent use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and naproxen can break down the digestive tract’s mucous layer. Your chances of developing stomach ulcer increases if you take pain relievers and have H. pylori bacteria.
How do I get treated for stomach ulcer?
Your doctor can prescribe certain medications which can help treat your stomach ulcer. These include:
- Antibiotic medications: Antibiotics such as amoxicillin, clarithromycin, metronidazole, tinidazole, tetracycline, and levofloxacin help kill the H. pylori bacteria. Patients typically take these together with medicines which reduce stomach acid.
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): Medicines such as pantoprazole, esomeprazole, rabeprazole, lansoprazole, and omeprazole lower stomach acid levels to protect your stomach lining and duodenum from any damage.
- Acid blockers: Also known as histamine (H-2) blockers, medicines such as famotidine, cimetidine, and nizatidine lower the amount of stomach acid which flows into your digestive tract.
- Antacids: These medicines neutralise stomach acid and alleviate stomach pain. However, it’s important to remember that antacids can only relieve symptoms but cannot heal stomach ulcers.
- Cytoprotective agents: Medicines such as sucralfate and misoprostol protect the lining of your small intestine and stomach.
Among these medicines, H-2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors facilitate healing of your stomach ulcer and negate the need for surgery.
Some serious cases of stomach ulcer may require surgical intervention. However, invasive procedures aren’t highly recommended by many doctors because many effective medicines are already available. Your need for surgery will ultimately depend on the severity of your stomach ulcer as well as the complications that arose from it.
What are the possible complications of stomach ulcer?
Roughly 25 percent of people with stomach ulcer develop serious complications. These include:
- Bleeding: Around 15 to 20 percent of individuals with stomach ulcer experience gastrointestinal bleeding. It is the most common cause of death associated with the condition. Studies reveal people who are at least 79 years old are more prone to bleeding than their younger counterparts.
- Perforation: When the anterior wall of your duodenum develops a hole, perforation occurs. Roughly two to 10 percent of people with stomach ulcer develop perforation. It is rare for children with stomach ulcers to suffer from this complication.
- Gastric outlet obstruction: This complication may impede the digestion process because the path from your stomach to the small intestines ends up getting blocked.
Stomach ulcers are curable
If you’re wondering if your stomach ulcer is still curable, the answer is a resounding yes! There are many effective medicines available that will help kill the bacteria that caused your stomach ulcer in the first place. Surgical treatment is also an option, particularly for those individuals with severe cases of stomach ulcers and those who already experience complications of this painful condition.
Aside from taking medications, making lifestyle changes such as eating a fibre-rich diet can help keep stomach ulcer at bay.
Need our help?
If you’re looking for professionals to help you manage the symptoms of your stomach ulcer, you’ve come to the right place! Call us at (07) 3071-7405 between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday to schedule an appointment with one of our accredited dietitians or nutritionists. Alternatively, you can send us an enquiry and we will get back to you as soon as possible.