The Causes and Symptoms of Stomach Ulcers


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Like many other conditions that occur in the gut, stomach ulcers are quite common and each day affect millions of people around the world in varying degrees.   While they can be extremely painful and easy to get, they are usually quite simple to alleviate.  

This brief article will take a look at a few common questions such as "how do you get stomach ulcers," "what are the symptoms" and "how do you get rid of them."

Are Stomach Ulcers the same as Peptic Ulcers?
In short, yes and no.   Stomach ulcers are in effect one type of peptic ulcer; this is considered the umbrella term for ulcers occurring within the gut.  Peptic ulcers therefore apply to both stomach ulcers (aka gastric ulcers) and duodenal ulcers (which occur in the small intestine).

How do you get Stomach Ulcers and what are the symptoms?

At a most basic level, stomach ulcers occur when the gastric lining of the stomach is eaten away by hydrochloric acid (which is there to assist with digestion).  While your stomach will usually have the right amount of hydrochloric acid, sometimes there is an imbalance which weakens both the mucous barrier and the actual lining.   So, what causes this imbalance to occur?

1. Helicobacter pylori infection: This little bacterium is the usual reason for stomach ulcer occurrence and sadly, the infection usually stays for life and symptoms are treatable rather than curable.  That said, infection does not ultimately mean you'll ever get a stomach ulcer.

2. Overuse of anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin and ibuprofen.  It is for this reason that those with arthritis are often very susceptible to stomach ulcers.

3. While smoking will rarely be a main cause, tobacco can certainly exacerbate a stomach ulcer and impede its treatment.

4. Rare but more serious causes of stomach ulcers include Crohn's disease and viral infections.

Symptoms of stomach ulcers include:

- A burning feeling akin to heartburn or indigestion
- Constant hunger pangs
- Pain in the upper abdomen immediately after eating
- Bloating, vomiting and weight loss

There are a number of ways symptoms can be alleviated:

- Cutting down on alcohol and tobacco
- Drinking milk or taking antacids
- Reduction in spicy food

How can you get rid of Stomach Ulcers?

Stomach ulcer treatments prescribed by a GP will potentially include:

- A course of antibiotics
- Acid suppressing medication
- Surgical treatments should the stomach ulcer be more severe

As stomach ulcers can be prone to reoccurrence, it's important to minimize associated contributory factors:

- Stop or reduce tobacco intake
- Don't drink alcohol excessively – particularly on a regular basis
- Relax regularly as stress can contribute to ulcer formation
- Maintain a balanced diet with regular meals

If the symptoms above sound familiar and you think you may have a stomach ulcer, contact your GP for an appointment as soon as possible.Sandy Rutherforde

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