Stomach Ulcers – Symptoms, Causes and Diagnosis
Stomach ulcers are also called as gastric ulcers. They are open sores in the stomach lining, esophagus, or duodenum which becomes mostly painful. Sometimes, stomach ulcers are also referred as a type of peptic ulcer disease. Peptic ulcers affect both the stomach and small intestines.
Stomach cancer is also known as duodenal ulcer as it can occur in some parts of the intestine beyond the stomach (duodenum). Stomach ulcers are curable, but can become severe if proper treatment is not given at the right time.
Symptoms of Stomach ulcers
Initially, a dull or burning sensation is felt in the stomach. This is the most common symptom for stomach or peptic ulcer.
Sometimes, pain can occur anywhere in the abdomen between the belly button and breastbone anytime during the day.
Bloating may occur which results in weight loss
Burping occurs due to acidity, also known as acid reflux
Feeling sick is another sign of stomach ulcer
Hunger pain after two to three hours of eating food or in midnight
Loss of appetite or feeling full easily
Dark stool or sometimes pooping blood may be noted
Vomiting and nausea becomes common
Heartburn may occur i.e. a burning sensation may be felt in the chest
Pain enhances while eating, drinking, or taking antacids
Anemia may also occur which leads to symptoms such as tiredness, shortness of breath, or pale skin
Fatigue (which may also be a stomach cancer symptom)
Causes of stomach ulcers
Two main causes for stomach ulcers are: either,
an infection with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria that can cause ulcers, or
long term usage of any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, diclofenac, or aspirin
Other than these, your lifestyle may also increase the chances of getting stomach ulcers. They can be:
Ulcers in stomach may occur due to certain lifestyle factors, such as too much use of spicy foods, excess stress and alcohol.
In a few cases, cigarette smoking may also increase the risk of developing ulcers in stomach and may also make treatment less effective.
NSAIDs result in stomach ulcers by reducing the adequate production of prostaglandins in the stomach. The function of prostaglandins is that they resist the damage caused by digestive juices in stomach which are acidic in nature.
Diagnosis of stomach ulcers
Generally, an ulcer is diagnosed by:
Barium upper gastrointestinal X-ray (upper GI series): The barium upper gastrointestinal (GI) X-ray involves no risk (other than exposure to radiation) or discomfort and is convenient to perform. Barium is a chalk-like substance which is to be swallowed. During the scan, it is visible and the outline of the stomach is observed. The disadvantage is that barium X-rays have low accuracy and approximately 20% of the cases are missed.
Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy (EGD or esophagogastroduodenoscopy): An upper gastrointestinal endoscopy has high accuracy as compared to barium X-ray scan. During Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, sedatives are given to the patient. A flexible tube is inserted through the mouth which leads to the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum for inspection.
Other diagnostic methods are:
Blood test: A small sample of blood is tested for antibodies against the H. pylori bacteria. If these antibodies are present, it confirms the infection with H. pylori.
Faecal sample: For this test, a small sample of your faeces will be tested for H. pylori. Fecal tests are also used to identify the causes of pooping blood or blood in stool. Sometimes, it could be bleeding hemorrhoids and not stomach ulcers.
Breath test: During this test, a liquid containing a harmless radioactive chemical is swallowed. Due to the presence of H. pylori, the chemical is broken down and carbon dioxide gas is produced. After drinking the liquid, the doctor may ask the patient to breathe into a machine. This machine measures the levels of radioactivity in the carbon dioxide. If a high level radioactivity is observed, it indicates some infection with H. pylori.
Mohd Salman, MBBS, is a medical science professional and is associated with DiseaseFix as a content guide and researcher. DiseaseFix develops health information modules for patients and provides a unique platform to allow access of reliable information of a variety of types for diseases.