STOMACH ULCER: WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
Stomach ulcer is one of the commonest reasons why you have belly pain. It brings you discomfort, lack of sleep and lots more. The pain is usually related to food or fasting. But did you know that the majority of stomach ulcers are caused by a tiny germ that lives in the stomach? This germ (bacteria) has also been implicated in causing stomach cancer as well as other illnesses in human beings. Read on:
What Is Stomach Ulcer?
Stomach ulcer means an injury to the layers covering inside of the stomach. This injury or wound may also occur in the intestines or lower part of the oesophagus.
What Causes Stomach Ulcer?
The following are the causes of stomach or intestinal ulcer:
• Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection: H. pylori are tiny bacteria found living in the walls of your stomach. It weakens the walls of the stomach by causing some changes in the architecture of the walls. It also causes too much acid production in the stomach which burns and injures the walls. Stomach or intestinal ulcers are nearly always related to infection with H. pylori. This is why when you use treatment that completely removes the bacteria the ulcer is healed. Ninety (90) per cent of people with intestinal ulcer and seventy (70) per cent of those with stomach ulcer have H. pylori bacteria in their stomach. The bacteria are usually spread from one person to another through contact.
• Drugs used for treatment of pain (NSAIDS): if you use drugs such as ibuprofen and diclofenac for treatment of pain your stomach wall may become weak. The weak stomach walls may then be easily damaged by acid or other strong materials. You may therefore develop ulcer from using such medicines.
• Cigarette smoking: if you smoke cigarette your chances of catching stomach and intestinal ulcers are higher. Also smoking cigarette makes healing of ulcer difficult and could lead to complications.
Symptoms of Stomach Ulcer
• You may experience belly pain on and off for several years, sometimes for life.
• Also you may feel the abdominal (belly) pain in the upper part where the stomach is located.
• When you are hungry the pain may get worse and improves after eating. Even though eating may sometimes starts the pain in some individuals.
• Also you may experience vomiting, lack of appetite and filling up fast (early satiety).
• Complications of ulcer may include bleeding from the wound. If you continue to bleed for a long time you could end up with low amount of blood in your body. The walls of your stomach may also puncture and cause serious problems such as severe pain or too much bleeding.
Treatment of Stomach Ulcer
Treatment starts with some medical tests to confirm the diagnosis. Also you may require an endoscopy where the doctor peeps into your stomach using a tube to see the level of damage. Part of the flesh of the ulcer is also taken during endoscopy to send to the lab for further analysis.
You will also need to be tested for H. pylori to know if you have been infected with the bacteria. The test uses your breath or stool (faeces) to detect chemicals produced by the bacteria.
If you are positive for H. pylori your doctor may have to treat you with some drugs that will remove the bacteria completely from your body. You will also be treated for the pain and other symptoms. You are at the same time given treatment that will heal the wound (ulcer) and prevent recurrence.
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Papadakis, M. A. & McPhee, S. J. (2017). Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment. 53. McGraw –Hill. USA
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