Suffering from stomach ulcers can negatively impact your quality of life. One in 10 people in Western countries will develop stomach ulcers at least once in their life. Understanding why ulcers form can help you take preventive measures to avoid their development.
Stomach ulcers or gastric ulcers occur in the lining of the stomach. Normally, protective mucus in the stomach protects against the very strong stomach acid that breaks down the food you eat. But when the mucus lining the stomach wears away and becomes ineffective against this acid you can develop sores in the wall of your stomach. This is how stomach ulcers form.
There are many things that can lead to the thinning of the mucus lining the stomach.
It is important to note that stomach acid is not the bad guy here. It is essential to digestion. Without it, you would not be able to digest the food that you eat. In addition, stomach acid also protects against bad germs.
Luckily, stomach ulcers are easily cured.
Symptoms of Stomach Ulcers
The most common symptom of stomach ulcers is burning stomach pain. Next is heartburn, the feeling of being full, indigestion, intolerance of fatty food, and nausea. In extreme cases, stomach ulcers can cause vomiting, bloody stools, weight loss, appetite changes, and trouble breathing.
The pain you experience usually occurs when the stomach it empty – thus, it’s most common when you are between meals, or at night while you are sleeping.
The pain is usually relieved after taking an antacid or eating acid-quelling types of foods. However, the burning pain of a stomach ulcer will certainly return if not properly treated.
Stress and spicy foods can worsen your stomach ulcer symptoms. However, they do not cause stomach ulcers to develop.
Common Causes and Treatment
The two most common causes of stomach ulcers are medications such as painkillers and bacteria like Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori).
The first step of treating your stomach ulcer is to remove its cause, such as changing your medication to one that doesn’t bother your stomach as much. Testing for H. pylori bacteria can determine if it is the cause of your ulcer.
Once the cause is removed, the treatment enters the second stage, which is protecting your stomach from acid and the healing of the ulcer. Your doctor may prescribe proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and H2 blockers. The former blocks acid-producing cells and the latter prevents excessive production of acid in the stomach. Your gastroenterologist may also prescribe medication to protect the lining of your stomach, such as antacids.
If your symptoms persist or recur, you may need surgical intervention. With surgery, your doctor can remove the ulcers in your stomach or sew tissue onto the ulcer. Any bleeding blood vessels may be tied off, or the nerve that controls the production of acid in the stomach may be severed.
Gastroenterologists in Austin, Texas
We offer a wide variety of GI services and treat various disorders of the upper and lower digestive tract. Our goal is to provide you relief so you can go back to living your life without bothersome stomach pain.