A stomach ulcer is characterized as a small-sized sore that develops in the stomach lining. These are caused by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori but can also be due to frequent or long-lasting use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which is a group of medications that minimize pain and inflammation.
Always bear in mind that both can disrupt with the delicate stomach lining which makes it prone to the detrimental effects of the stomach acid. The usual symptom of a stomach ulcer is the burning pain in the abdomen that tends to improve with food. The other symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, bleeding and weight loss can also occur.
Pain from stomach ulcers
Once the lining of the stomach is damaged, it is exposed to the stomach acid that normally digests food. As a result, a stomach ulcer forms which triggers gnawing or burning pain.
The pain from a stomach ulcer typically develops in the upper abdomen and lasts for a few minutes up to hours. The pain can manifest within 2-5 hours after eating and can awaken the individual at night.
The pain can be relieved by taking an antacid that often neutralizes the acid in the stomach. In some individuals, eating or drinking can also help improve the pain by coating the ulcer. On the other hand, food can irritate the stomach ulcer and aggravate the pain. If there is intense pain, it might indicate that the ulcer has perforated through the stomach lining.
The presence of a stomach ulcer can bleed once it forms close to a blood vessel in the stomach and damages it. Take note that the symptoms of a bleeding ulcer depends on the amount of bleeding and how fast the individual loses blood.
The indications of acute bleeding include vomiting fresh red blood or a substance that appear like coffee grounds. The individual might also have black, tarry stools or blood-streaked stools. In case the bleeding is rapid and severe, there might be indications of shock such as rapid heart rate and low blood pressure. If the ulcer bleeds in a slow manner over time, the only signs or symptoms might be fatigue or paleness due to anemia.
What are the other signs and symptoms of a stomach ulcer?
Even though pain is a usual symptom of a stomach ulcer especially among the elderly, some do not experience any pain. Instead, the individual experiences bloating, nausea, vomiting, intolerance to fatty foods, belching or heartburn.
The weight loss is triggered by fear of the individual of food intake due to the pain it causes which is another sign of stomach ulcers. The weight loss can also be due to obstruction where the swelling or scarring from the ulcer physically clogs the flow of food through the stomach. This results to reduced food that passes into the intestines where it is broken down and absorbed into the body.
When to seek care
It is vital to seek medical care if the individual experiences intense pain in the abdominal region, if there is blood in the stool or black tarry stools or vomiting blood. A doctor should also be consulted if the individual loses weight, persistent vomiting or nausea or pain during eating.
A doctor should be consulted regarding risk factors for the ulcers including excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, family history of stomach ulcers or prolonged use of NSAIDs.