Gastric Ulceration - Causes, Risk Factors and Symptoms

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Peptic ulcers are open sores on the inside lining of the esophagus, stomach and the upper portion of the small intestine. Gastric ulcer is a type of peptic ulcer that particularly occurs on the inside of the stomach.

Though it is widely believed that spicy food and stress cause peptic ulcers, the real causes for the ulcers are either bacterial infections or consumption of certain medications.

Gastric ulcers : causes
  • Ulcers occur when there is an imbalance between digestive fluids in the stomach and the duodenum.
  • The duodenum, which plays a vital role in the chemical digestion of the partially digested food, is the first section of the small intestine. Most ulcers are caused by an infection, which is caused by a bacterium known as Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori).

High risk factors
  • Excessive use of painkillers, including aspirin
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol, smoking and chewing tobacco
  • Radiation treatments
  • Excess production of acids from gastrinomas, tumors of the acid reproducing cells of the stomach. (Zollinger-Ellison syndrome)
  • Severe illnesses

Common symptoms
  • Severe pain in the middle or upper stomach between meals or during night time
  • Bloating
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea or vomiting

The symptoms in the later stages become worse and may include
  • Dark or black stool
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting blood
  • Gnawing pain in the mid to upper abdomen

Treatment

Ulcers can be treated in many ways, such as making some lifestyle changes and taking regular medications. Surgery is usually the last option for management of ulcers.

  • Lifestyle Changes: Quit drinking and smoking to prevent ulcer. If painkillers are the root cause of the ulcers, their consumption should be stopped at once.
  • Ulcer Medications: Proton pump inhibitors (PPI and Antibiotics are used to prevent ulcers. Upper endoscopy is used to treat some bleeding ulcers. Surgery is needed if the ulcer has created a hole in the wall of the stomach, or if there is serious bleeding that cannot be treated with an endoscope.

Lifestyle and home remedies
  • Turn to a healthy diet comprising of fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Seek medical advice when using pain killers on a regular basis
  • Avoid stress
  • Exercise regularly
  • Limit alcohol and smoking
  • Protect yourself from infections especially from H. pylori. It is said that it could be transmitted from person to person or through food and water.

Remember, gastric ulcers are something one should never ignore. Not only can this condition cause several pain and discomfort, but also lead to severe complications if left untreated.

Consult a doctor.