A healthy stomach will have a sticky layer of mucus coated on its inside. The mucus layer protects the stomach from harsh digestive acids that break down our food. The whole process is based on a delicate balance and if something upsets this balance then there will be more stomach acid secreted into the stomach than enough mucus.
The stomach acids which are more in quantity inside the stomach will start attacking the stomach tissues lining the stomach. A painful and bloody open sore is caused in the stomach and this is called an ulcer.
We all have a feeling that stomach ulcers are caused due to stress or spicy food. On the contrary they are just some factors that worsen the problem and nothing more. It is actually a bacterium in our gut called the Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori) that is the culprit.
The bacteria H.pylori inflame the stomach wall until an ulcer is formed. It is not yet known how the bacteria make its presence in the stomach but it is doubted that it may spread through close contact.
Some medicines like NSAIDs can cause ulcer especially when taken in combination with other drugs. Steroids and blood thinners can also cause stomach ulcers. Some medicines that treat osteoporosis also can be a reason for the ulcer.
Pain in stomach ulcers
When stomach ulcers aggravate, it becomes hard to ignore them. Patients may feel a burning sensation between the breastbone and belly button. The burning will last for few minutes or few hours and even get worse when the stomach is empty.
Besides pain stomach ulcers may cause a queasy feeling and a person will feel like throwing up. You could burp often and feel bloated. Other symptoms are black coloured stools and blood when you go to the toilet. Some others may lose appetite and result in their weight loss. In many other cases though stomach ulcers may not cause any symptom at all for a long time.
How is stomach ulcer diagnosed?
If the doctor feels that you have stomach ulcer, then a test of breath or stool is taken to check and see whether you have H.pylori germs. A stomach X-ray or Barrium Swallow can also be used to detect stomach ulcer. The ulcer is clearly visible on an X-ray monitor.
An endoscopy can help your doctor take a closer look at the ulcer and even take a sample tissue for further tests.
Most of the treatments target the control of stomach acids. Several types of drug can be used to control acid in the stomach. The medications also coat the stomach to protect it and the ulcerated portion. The doctor may even suggest an OTC antacid to get some immediate relief.
Antibiotics cannot be avoided if your ulcer is due to H. Pylori. Most of the medications cure most of the ulcers caused by the bacteria. Even then it is difficult to get rid of H. Pylori. Doctors may prescribe high doses like 4 medicines to be taken at a time. When taking these medications follow doctor’s instruction carefully.
Don’t ignore your ulcer
If you postpone your treatment the stomach ulcer may get worse. The ulcer will start to block food from moving freely in the digestive system. The patient will always feel full and have no appetite. Later the ulcer could even make a hole through the stomach lining and cause severe infection. An ulcer when it bleeds could make you rush to the hospital.