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Easy to Understand Information about Stomach Ulcers

What is a Stomach Ulcer?

A stomach ulcer (also called a peptic ulcer or a gastric ulcer) is a small erosion (hole) in the gastrointestinal tract. The most common type of stomach ulcer is a duodenal ulcer. Duodenal ulcers occur in the first 12 inches of small intestine beyond the stomach. Ulcers that form in the stomach are called gastric ulcers. An ulcer is not contagious or cancerous. Duodenal ulcers are almost always benign, while stomach ulcers may become malignant.

Stomach ulcer disease is common, affecting millions of Americans yearly. The size of a stomach ulcer can range between 1/8 of an inch to 3/4 of an inch.

stomach ulcer pain

Find out more information about the stomach, or view it in relation to other organs in the body.

Children develop stomach ulcers too.

Stomach ulcer warning signs

Stomach ulcers are very common. Stomach ulcers may be a symptom of another disease or condition. Stomach ulcers are often common in mastocytosis. Internal bleeding from stomach ulcers may cause iron deficiency anemia.

What causes Stomach Ulcers?

The direct cause of peptic ulcers is the destruction of the gastric or intestinal mucosal lining of the stomach by hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid is normally present in the digestive juices of the stomach. Infection with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori is thought to play an important role in causing both gastric and duodenal ulcers. Helicobacter pylori may be transmitted from person to person through contaminated food and water. Antibiotics are the most effective treatment for Helicobacter pylori peptic ulcers.

Injury of the gastric mucosal lining, and weakening of the mucous defenses are also responsible for gastric ulcers. Excess secretion of hydrochloric acid, genetic predisposition, and psychological stress are important contributing factors in the formation and worsening of duodenal ulcers.

Another major cause of ulcers is the chronic use of anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin. Cigarette smoking is also an important cause of ulcer formation and ulcer treatment failure.

Stomach Ulcer questions

Stomach Ulcer symptoms

The major symptom of an ulcer is a burning or gnawing feeling in the stomach area that lasts between 30 minutes and 3 hours. This pain is often interpreted as heartburn, indigestion or hunger. The pain usually occurs in the upper abdomen, but sometimes it may occur below the breastbone.

In some individuals the pain occurs immediately after eating. In other individuals, the pain may not occur until hours after eating. The pain frequently awakens the person at night. Weeks of pain may be followed by weeks of not having pain. Pain can be relieved by drinking milk, eating, resting, or taking antacids.

relieved by drinking milk, eating, resting, or taking antacids.

Appetite and weight loss are other symptoms of a stomach ulcer. Persons with duodenal ulcers may experience weight gain because the persons eats more to ease discomfort. Recurrent vomiting, blood in the stool and anemia are also symptoms of a stomach ulcer.

In severe cases, symptoms of a stomach ulcer may include:

  • Dark or black stool (caused by internal bleeding)
  • Vomiting blood (vomit may be grainy and black like "coffee-grounds")
  • Weight loss
  • Severe pain in the mid to upper abdomen

What does a Stomach Ulcer affect?

The main thing that a stomach ulcer affects is the nerves surrounding it. The nerves become agitated and cause a great amount of pain. Stomach ulcers can cause hemorrhages from the erosion of a major blood vessel; a tear in the wall of the stomach or intestine, with resultant peritonitis; or obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract because of spasm or swelling in the area of the ulcer.

Stomach ulcer diets

Stomach ulcer statistics

  1. About 20 million Americans develop at least one stomach ulcer during their lifetime.
  2. Stomach ulcers affect about 4 million Americans every year.
  3. More than 40,000 Americans have surgery because of persistent symptoms or problems from ulcers every year.
  4. About 6,000 Americans die of stomach ulcer-related complications every year.

Stomach Ulcer Treatment

Risks of Developing a Stomach Ulcer

Is a Stomach Ulcer Serious?

Many stomach ulcers heal on their own. However, it is important to seek medical attention if you believe you have a stomach ulcer. If not properly treated, stomach ulcers can lead to serious health problems, including:

  • Internal bleeding
  • A hole through the wall of the stomach
  • Gastric outlet obstruction from swelling or scarring that blocks the passageway leading from the stomach to the small intestine.

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