Stomach ulcer also known as gastric ulcer is a common cause of abdominal pain in our society. It literally means having a wound on the inner wall of the stomach. It commonly results from a chronic infection from the bacteria Helicobacter Pylori (H. pylori) which is very prevalent in developing countries where it is transmitted by the faeco-oral or oral-oral route. Most infections are gotten in early life.
What causes Stomach Ulcer?
There are several causes of stomach ulcer such as:
- H. pylori (bacteria) infection: This happens to be the most common cause.
- Drugs : Another common culprit are the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) which include the likes of diclofenac, ibuprofen and naproxen commonly used in the management of pain; aspirin often taken to prevent clot perforation and hence prevention of stroke; and the illicit drug, cocaine, can cause stomach ulcer.
- Major physiological stress as seen after trauma and burns.
- Psychological stress
- Gastric stasis
- Heavy alcohol binge
- Gastric cancer
Signs of Stomach/Gastric Ulcer:
- Abdominal pain: located commonly in the epigastric region. Pain is said to be burning in nature, constant and may or may not radiate to the back. It is made worse just immediately after eating particularly spicy meals and is relieved by antacids or after vomiting. Pain may however become generalized in those with perforated gastric ulcer.
- Vomiting: Vomitus may or may not be blood stained.
- Anorexia (loss of appetite) or the outright fear of eating on account of fear of pain.
- Weight loss
- Haematochezia: passage of blood in the stool
- Melena: passage of black stool
- Dizziness: a sign of anaemia
- Abdominal distension: resulting from perforation of the intestines
Differential diagnosis/ mimics that may look like Stomach Ulcer:
- Duodenal ulcer
- Uncomplicated hiatal hernia
- Atrophic gastritis
- Irritable bowel syndrome
Complications that may arise from Stomach Ulcer:
A benign stomach ulcer may worsen resulting in complications. Bleeding is the most common of complications. It could be visible when the individual’s vomitus contains blood which may appear bright red in colour or brownish. It could also be noticed when the individuals stool is black in colour or contains frank red blood. When blood clot is noticed it is an indication that the bleeding is much.
Gastric outlet obstruction is another complication which results when the area around the ulcer is swollen and prevents food from leaving the stomach into the small intestine. It results in vomiting of stomach contents which would appear as stale food.
Perforation of the stomach results when the ulcer in the inner wall of the stomach extends to the outer wall, discharging the stomach contents into the peritoneal cavity causing worsening of symptom.
Theses complications may further lead to infection, shock, multiple organ failure and sadly death.
When to Seek Help:
It is never too early to seek the advice of a medical doctor. Symptoms may appear little but it is a pot-hole that will someday turn to gully erosion. Gastric cancer should send shivers down the spine of anyone, although not common but this cannot be detected on time except through proper examination at the hospital. The fact remains that cancer is CURABLE when found on time. And if checking the condition of your stomach matters to you, do well to Consult a Doctor on KompleteCare.
What to Expect when getting Professional Help on Stomach Ulcer
Questions (medical history) would be asked and physical examination will be carried out to help guide investigations. Due to its high prevalence, tests are usually ordered for the presence of H. pylori infection which could be done either with blood, stool or a breath test. Other investigations that may be ordered include a barium meal and lastly an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy. The endoscope is a long flexible tube with a camera at its tip that is passed down the individuals’ throat and into the stomach. It is the one investigation that helps confirm the presence of an ulcer in the stomach. It has the advantage of looking at the entire inner wall of the stomach to locate ulcers and also take samples which are sent for histology to help rule out the dreaded gastric cancer.
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Abdominal ultrasound is not used for the diagnosis of stomach ulcer but it helps in ruling out other causes of abdominal pain or to help detect presence of fluid in the abdomen which may result from perforation of the stomach.
Other investigations that may be asked for may be used in getting the physiological condition of the individual or help rule out other disease conditions.
Some Solutions for Stomach Ulcer:
Treatment of stomach ulcer is mostly guided by its cause.
For H. pylori infection, the goal of treatment is to eradicate the bacterium for which antibiotics are prescribed. It is added to agents that reduce the production of stomach acid. Commonly referred to as triple therapy as three medications are given at the same time for which two are antibiotics. The various combinations used would depend on a lot of factors like resistance to previously used medications or even reaction to a given drug by the individual.
Where an offending agent is found to be the cause like NSAIDS, smoking, or binge alcohol drinking, avoiding them would help a long way in the treatment of the ulcer.
Antacids and drugs to reduce stomach acid are given in the absence of infection. Medications are also given to control pain.
Surgical management of stomach ulcer is now on the decline but it is the main stay of treatment when cancer is involved or in the management of complications.
ADVICE FROM YOUR DOCTOR AND FRIEND:
Things may be hard currently, but they would surely get better one day. A symptom may look very small and insignificant today and you might be tempted to overlook it or say other people treat theirs like this why should mine be different. Every human on the face of the earth is unique and as such different. Seeking the advice of a medical doctor on time is very important as the prognosis is far much better and it is much cheaper than managing the complications if they arise.
Don’t be caught napping. The earlier you seek care, the more likely you are to getting solution in time. Speak to a Doctor today!