Gastric ulcers are sores that develop inside the stomach as a result of damage to the mucosal lining. In a healthy gastrointestinal system, this mucosal lining protects our insides from erosive stomach acid and food contents. However, when this lining is damaged, the underlying skin may become exposed, resulting in lesion-like wounds that are prone to infection from bacteria. Gastric ulcers are commonly referred to as peptic ulcers, and may also occur in the esophagus and areas of the small intestine, namely the duodenum. Most peptic ulcers are caused by an imbalance in digestive fluids, and generally occur alongside the overproduction of stomach acid. Gastric ulcers can be categorized by their size, cause, severity, and persistence. In extreme cases, a chronic condition known as Peptic Ulcer Disease may result.
Gastric Ulcer Drugs
Gastric Ulcer Symptoms
Most gastric ulcers are extremely painful. Sufferers may describe the pain as an abdominal “burning” sensation that can radiate throughout the entire abdomen, as well as into the back and neck. For many, this pain is strongest on an empty stomach and at night.
- Burning sensation in midsection
- Indigestion and loss of appetite
Severe symptoms of Gastric Ulcers
- Blood in the stool (dark black appearance)
- Vomiting up blood
- Acute, stabbing pain that does not resolve
Gastric Ulcer Causes
The majority of gastric ulcers are caused by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). This bacterium spreads easily from person to person, and is common in the digestive tract.
While it causes infections associated with gastric ulcers, H. pylori does not act alone. The following conditions are risk factors for gastric ulcers, creating the gastric imbalance that leads to tissue irritation, erosion, and infection.
- Excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages
- Prolonged use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin
- Family history of stomach ulcers
- Advanced age (over 50)
- Other existing illnesses
- General poor health
Gastric Ulcer Diagnosis
A licensed medical professional may investigate a suspected gastric ulcer using a number of non-invasive diagnostic tests as well as some more thorough methods to explore the extent of mucosal damage .
- Analysis of breath, blood, or stool
- An endoscopy: Here, a doctor can get a visualization of the digestive tract using a small camera attached to a long hollow tube. The tube is inserted into the throat and threaded along the digestive tract.
- An X-ray: At times, an X-ray may be used to explore the digestive tract or the “upper GI series.”
Gastric Ulcer Treatment
From simply self-care methods to medications prescribed by your doctor, there are several ways to treat gastric ulcers.
Medication treatment for Gastric Ulcers
- The most effective treatment for stomach ulcers caused by H. pylori is a combination of antibiotics and other medications known as “proton pump inhibitors.”
- The most commonly selected antibiotic for stomach ulcers is amoxicillin. This regiment eliminates the infection, thereby facilitating healing and alleviating symptoms.
- Another common treatment is the use of medications that reduce acid production. These include over-the-counter acid-blockers such Zantac.
Self-care treatment for Gastric Ulcers
One important way to reduce the risk for stomach ulcers is to avoid consuming large quantities of alcohol, and to quit smoking.