Gastric Ulcer Description

A gastric ulcer is an ulcer of the stomach. It causes patients frustration on many levels beyond its uncomfortable and often painful symptoms, which can occur a significant time after the ulcer has developed. Once the condition is diagnosed, the symptoms of a gastric ulcer can be unpredictable in terms of their occurrence.

Definition of an Ulcer

An ulcer is basically an open, painful sore. Gastric ulcers are open crater-like stores in the lining of the stomach, where there is some irregular combination of aggressive and defensive stomach juices. A gastric ulcer causes the digestive juices to malfunction, as they begin to digest the stomach lining, breaking it down further, as though it is food.
     
Causes


Alcohol abuse and spicy foods were long cited as the main causes of gastric ulcers. Stress, as a gastric ulcer cause, continues to pose a debate in the medical field. A stomach substance called Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori, can create an infection that results in a gastric ulcer. Doctors have discovered that a mix of stomach acid and H.pylori is responsible for most ulcers.

Smoking is associated with ulcers, since nicotine creates more stomach acid. Drinking is associated with ulcer causes as well, since alcohol weakens the stomach lining. Excessive use of aspirin or ibuprofin also pose ulcer risks.
     
Ulcer Formation

An H. pylori infection weakens the stomach lining, which then enables acids to get through to underlying tissues of the digestive system. The bacteria and acid that gets through causes the sores that are gastric ulcers.
     
Signs and Symptoms

Burning and/or gnawing stomach pains after eating or during the night on an empty stomach are signs of a gastric ulcer. Feeling full and bloated quite easily is another sign. Gastric ulcer symptoms include nausea and vomiting and a lack of appetite. Frequent burping and hiccuping are other symptoms of a gastric ulcer.
   
Fatigue and weakness with an existing ulcer could be dangerous signs that the ulcer is bleeding. Blood in the stool and/or vomit are other possible indications of a bleeding ulcer. Patients should consult a physician as soon as possible.
     
Treatment

Ulcers can heal, and the first steps include changing poor health choices (like quitting drinking and smoking) and improving diet and exercise. Doctors also recommend cutting out caffeine and unnecessary over-the-counter medicine. Medications include H2-blockers, proton-pump inhibitors and mucosal protective agents, in addition to antibiotics for the H. Pylori bacteria.

Ulcer pain medications, such as Prilosec or Prevacid, are for short-term ulcer relief but don't cure the ulcer. These medications have many side effects, such as headaches and diarrhea, and are for severely painful ulcer conditions.

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