February 24, 2022 4:24 pm
At some time or another, you’ve probably seen a character on TV depicted as having a stomach ulcer. You know what we’re talking about—the character is usually walking around guzzling a liquid antacid and complaining about a stomachache. Most of the time, that character is also very stressed.
Does the reality match up with the dramatized version? It’s actually pretty close .
What a Stomach Ulcer Is
A stomach ulcer is a sore that appears in the lining of your stomach or in the duodenum, which is part of your small intestine.
This type of ulcer, also called a peptic ulcer, occurs when stomach acids that digest the food you eat damage the walls of the stomach or the duodenum. These stomach acids normally exist in your body without a problem during the digestive process, but in some cases, they begin to eat away at the stomach itself.
There are several causes for this, but the most common is an infection with a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). The long-term use or misuse of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can also lead to a stomach ulcer. And in rare cases, cancerous and noncancerous tumors in the stomach, duodenum or pancreas may cause an ulcer.
Can you be so stressed you develop an ulcer? While stress can be a factor in the growth of stomach ulcers, it’s not considered a standalone cause in their development.
Stomach Ulcer Symptoms
If you have a stomach ulcer, you may experience several painful and disruptive symptoms. Stomach ulcer symptoms may include:
- A burning or dull pain in the stomach
- Discomfort that comes and goes for days or even weeks
- Discomfort that lasts for minutes or hours
- Feelings of excessive fullness
- Nausea and vomiting or dry heaving
- Stomach pain that disrupts sleep
Because stomach ulcer symptoms are also common to other health issues, it can be challenging to know when they’re related to an ulcer. If you experience gnawing stomach pain when your stomach is empty or your pain stops for a bit when you eat or take an antacid, talk with your medical provider about whether you could have a stomach ulcer.
In some cases, peptic ulcers can tear or become perforated—what’s known as a bleeding ulcer. You will likely experience more severe symptoms when this occurs, including vomiting blood or seeing blood in stool. This is considered an emergency, and prompt medical attention is needed.
How Stomach Ulcers Are Diagnosed and Treated
If your medical provider suspects you may have a stomach ulcer, he or she will have you undergo an imaging test to view the inside of the stomach. A sample of the stomach lining may also be taken, and your blood or stool will be checked for the presence of H. Pylori.
Treatment for a stomach ulcer will vary depending on the severity of the ulcer and its cause. If you ulcer is caused by bacteria, you’ll be prescribed an antibiotic or a combination of antibiotics. In most cases, you’ll also be given medications to reduce the amount of stomach acid in your body, as well as other medications to help alleviate discomfort and heal the ulcer.
In severe cases, surgery may be needed to restore a proper balance of stomach acid and heal the ulcer.
If surgery is required for a stomach ulcer or another medical condition, Magnolia Regional Health Center is here to help. Each year, our Surgical Services team performs more than 11,000 surgical procedures. Request an appointment with a surgeon today.
This post was written by Magnolia Regional Health Center