What Is a Stomach Ulcer?
Stomach ulcers are also known as peptic ulcers, which are sores on the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. These sores can develop in the stomach, esophagus or the small intestines. For several years, the thought and idea that peptic ulcers were caused by diet and stress persisted. However, peptic ulcers are now known to be caused by a bacteria. Even though peptic ulcers are painful, there are treatments to reverse the effects and allow the sore to heal.
The symptoms of stomach ulcers are mostly burning pain in the abdominal area. The sores are open areas of the stomach just like an opening on the skin. However, a stomach ulcer is covered by the natural acid that is created by the stomach. This causes irritation in the stomach, which is why peptic ulcers are painful. The pain may last minutes or hours. It's relieved when the patient eats alkaline foods that neutralize the acid.
The main cause of a stomach ulcer is from a bacteria. Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a bacteria that can withstand the low pH of the stomach and invades the tissue within the organ. For some people, the infection goes unnoticed and there are no symptoms. However, for several other people, the infection from the bacteria causes inflammation. There are other causes of ulcers in the stomach such as excessive use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that can create a sore in the lining of the stomach and smoking and excessive alcohol use. Although stress does not cause ulcers, it can irritate and exacerbate symptoms.
When the patient goes to the doctor, several tests are performed to diagnose the problem. Blood tests are used to find any antibodies in the blood. The body's immune system creates antibodies for H. pylori if infection in the stomach is present. A breath test is also given. The patient must drink a fluid that contains a radioactive carbon, which is broken down from the fluid by H. pylori. The patient is asked to blow into a bag after a few hours. If H. pylori is present, the breakdown of the radioactive carbon in the form of carbon dioxide is present.
For patients who have an H. pylori infection, antibiotics are used to remove the microbe and clear the source of the infection. Acid blockers are also given to reduce the amount of stomach acid released. This stops the acid from irritating the sores and allows the sores to heal. Antacids can also be used in conjunction with acid blockers. Antacids don't block acid, but neutralize it. Proton pump inhibitors are also a popular alternatives to acid blockers. Proton pump inhibitors stop the acid pumps in the stomach from producing acid.
Although H. pylori infections cannot be prevented, other sources for stomach ulcers can be avoided. The first prevention is reducing the use of tobacco smoke and limiting the intake of alcohol. Do not take NSAIDs excessively and limit use to a few days consecutively. Esophagus ulcers can be caused by acid reflux, so these patients should control its effects to avoid the sores.