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How Do You Know if You Have a Stomach Ulcer?

This is a type of peptic ulcer disease.This is a type of peptic ulcer disease.

If you have a stomach ulcer, you may have:

Visit the doctor/gastroenterologist if you

  • Vomit blood that is bright red or dark brown
  • Are passing dark, sticky, tar-like poo (stool)
  • Have sudden, sharp pain in your tummy that gets worse steadily
  • These could be the signs of internal bleeding, and this can be fatal.

What is a stomach ulcer?

Stomach ulcer or gastric ulcer is a painful open sore that develops on the lining of your stomach due to the damage to the inner stomach lining.

This is a type of peptic ulcer disease. Stomach ulcers often can be easily cured; however, it can be fatal if not treated properly. It occurs mostly in men are than women

What are the causes of stomach ulcers?

You may get a stomach ulcer due to

  • Helicobacter pylori (H pylori) bacterial infection
  • Taking drugs, such as painkillers, steroids, analgesics (Aspirin), for a long time or at high doses
  • Stress
  • Spicy food
  • Age (≥60 years)
  • Rarely, a tumor or cancer in the stomach that increases stomach acid production (Zollinger-Ellison syndrome).

How can my doctor diagnose my stomach ulcer?

Depending on the availability and cost, following the test, your doctor may ask for

  • Helicobacter pylori infection tests
    • Culture of bacteria
    • Microscopic examination
    • Urea-breath test
    • Stool-antigen test
    • Antibody blood test
  • X-ray imaging by swallowing a barium dye
  • Examination by inserting a thin tube, which has a light and camera attached to it, through the incision made onto the stomach (endoscopy)
  • A piece of stomach tissue removed by endoscopy and examined in the laboratory (endoscopic biopsy)

How will my doctor treat my stomach ulcer?

Most stomach ulcers take 1-2 months to heal and your doctor/gastroenterologist will prescribe you the treatment based on the cause of your ulcer.

  • Your doctor will assess your family history, dietary history, diseases, and medication history and examine your tummy to address the cause of your stomach ulcer.
  • Your doctor will discuss with you the side effects of the painkillers and analgesics, which you may be taking, and whether you should keep using them or stop them.
  • Your doctor may advise you to stop smoking, stop alcohol consumption, lose some weight, and avoid some trigger foods, such as spicy and fatty food.
  • Your doctor may prescribe an alternative painkiller, analgesic, or anti-inflammatory medications, such as Paracetamol.
  • Your doctor will prescribe you proton pump inhibitors (PPI) and antacids to reduce the amount of acid production and some antibiotics for up to 2 weeks to treat H pylori infection.
  • Your doctor will prescribe probiotics, which will help to grow good bacteria in your gut and may be useful in killing H pylori bacteria.
  • Your doctor may prescribe you bismuth supplements.
  • Your doctor may have another endoscopy to check stomach ulcers several weeks after treatment to make sure that the ulcer is gone because a very small number of stomach ulcers might contain cancer.

If the underlying cause is not addressed properly, the stomach ulcer may recur even after the treatment.

What are the possible complications I may have to face?

Complications of stomach ulcers are very rare. However, they can be serious and fatal, such as

  • Bleeding at the site of the ulcer, which may cause blood in vomit or in the stool.
  • Stomach lining at the site of the ulcer splitting open (perforation).
  • Blocks the movement of food through the digestive system (stomach obstruction).

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