How Do I Know if I Have a Stomach Ulcer?
What is a Stomach Ulcer?
Stomach ulcers, sometimes referred to as gastric ulcers, are sores that present within the stomach lining. They are part of a class of disorders called peptic ulcers. This type of ulcer may affect both the small intestines and stomach. They occur when the thick layer of mucus that protects the stomach from digestive acid thins out, allowing the acid to damage underlying tissue.
Signs of Stomach Ulcer
The most common symptom of a stomach ulcer is a burning sensation felt between the belly button and the chest. The pain may be intermittent, lasting from several minutes to a few hours per episode. It tends to be the most intense when the stomach is empty.
Other common symptoms of stomach ulcer include:
- Weight loss
- Nausea or vomiting
- Burping or acid reflux
Not all symptoms may be present in every case of stomach ulcer. It is important to contact your doctor if you have pain that persists or grows worse. Ulcer pain is generally mild to begin with, however, the condition can become serious if it is not treated.
Causes of Stomach Ulcer
There are two typical causes of stomach ulcer, both of which can be counteracted:
- Infection: The bacterium H. pylori is responsible for the majority of stomach ulcers. Infection is extremely common, and this bacterium will often infiltrate the digestive tract beginning in childhood. Most people do not suffer any symptoms from the infection, but sometimes, an ulcer will develop. The highly acidic environment in the stomach prevents a robust immune response.
- Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs: Several common over the counter medications may interfere with the stomach’s production of chemicals that lead to inflammation. A stomach ulcer may be more likely if the concentration of these agents is reduced for a long period. Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are some of the most common medications that may worsen the issue, especially if they are used daily.
Diet for Stomach Ulcer
Although diet alone does not cause stomach ulcer, it is now understood that certain foods can play a role in controlling the population of H. pylori bacteria in the human body. Patients should seek a diet high in leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale.
Other foods that may help stomach ulcer include:
- Probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, and miso.
- Berries including raspberry, blueberry, strawberry, and blackberry.
- Radishes, cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli, among other vegetables.
Acid reflux disease often accompanies stomach ulcers. In this condition, stomach acid moves up the esophagus and may damage it. As a result, patients who have been diagnosed with a stomach ulcer should avoid sour and spicy foods until the ulcer heals completely.
Treatment Options for Stomach Ulcer
There are both surgical and nonsurgical treatment options for a stomach ulcer:
- Nonsurgical Treatment for Stomach Ulcer: Nonsurgical intervention includes both medication and lifestyle changes. Under a doctor’s care, most patients will discontinue use of OTC medication that could worsen stomach ulcer, make dietary changes, and potentially take a prescription that helps inhibit acid production. To verify prompt healing of the ulcer, diagnostic images may be taken using endoscopy.
- Surgical Treatment for Stomach Ulcer: Surgical treatment for stomach ulcer is pursued only in severe cases. Ulcers that return or do not heal with nonsurgical treatment are most likely to resolved with surgery. Removing the ulcer is one option. Repairing the ulcer using tissue from elsewhere in the intestines may also be possible.
To find out more about stomach ulcer treatment options, contact Gotham Medical Associates or call 212-227-3688 today. Our gastroenterologists are here to help and find a treatment option that is best for you.