Stomach Ulcer: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Causes & Treatment

A stomach ulcer, also know as gastric ulcer or peptic ulcer, is a wound that forms in the tissue that lines the stomach. It can be caused by several factors, but it is more common due to poor eating habits, prolonged use of oral anti-inflammatory medication or infection by Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori).

The presence of a stomach ulcer can lead to symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting, especially after eating. Usually, this condition isn't serious but it needs to be treated as soon as possible, to prevent the ulcer from increasing in size, which can worsen symptoms and increase the risk of complications such as bleeding or gastric perforation.

Stomach Ulcer: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Causes & Treatment

Main symptoms

The main symptoms of gastric ulcer are:

  • Strong abdominal pain, like a stabbing pain;
  • Heartburn;
  • Nausea;
  • Vomiting;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Bloating;
  • Weight loss.

Symptoms of gastric ulcer sometimes get worse after eating.

Alongside with a gastric ulcer, a duodenal ulcer may also form. This type of ulcer is located in the first portion of the intestines, and it causes symptoms during fasting periods or during the night. 

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is usually done by a gastroenterologist or a G.P., that can suspect of a stomach ulcer based on the symptoms. Some test may also be recommended, such as an endoscopy, that allows the doctor to look inside the stomach, or an urea breath test, that identifies the presence of H. Pylori infection.

Learn more about H. Pylori infection, it's symptoms and treatment options.

Possible causes

A stomach ulcer forms when the stomach is vulnerable to its own acidity, which may happen due to:

  • Genetic factors;
  • Use of medication that affects the stomach wall, such as anti-inflammatory medication or acetylsalicylic acid;
  • H. pylori infection, a type of bacteria that multiplies in the stomach and weakens its protective barrier;
  • Alcoholic drinks and cigarettes;
  • Excessive stress.

In addition, a diet that is unbalanced, and rich in fats, sugars, and inflammatory foods, such as caffeine or pepper, can aggravate symptoms and other gastric problems, such as reflux. 

Stomach Ulcer: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Causes & Treatment
 

Treatment options

Treatment for stomach ulcers is normally done with medication that decreases the stomach acidity, such as antacids or acid inhibitors - omeprazole, pantoprazole, lansoprazole or esomeprazole. The doctor may also recommend analgesics to control pain if that's needed. If there's an infection caused by H. pylori, it may also be necessary the use of antibiotics, such as amoxicillin or clarithromycin. 

During treatment it's important to have a balanced diet, by focusing on fruits, cooked vegetables, grains, light dairy, bread, and white meats, and avoid very hot food, alcoholic drinks, sodas, sandwiches, fast food, deep-fried foods, and sweet foods. See a diet plan that can help cure a stomach ulcer.

Home remedies

An excellent home remedy for stomach ulcer is having a pure potato juice every day, preferably while fasting. Potatoes are great natural antacids that can balance gastric acidity and help with stomach ulcers. 

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References

  • MSD MANUALS - VERSÃO PARA PROFISSIONAIS DE SAÚDE. Doença ulcerosa péptica. 2018. Available on: <https://www.msdmanuals.com/pt-pt/profissional/dist%C3%BArbios-gastrointestinais/gastrite-e-doen%C3%A7a-ulcerosa-p%C3%A9ptica/doen%C3%A7a-ulcerosa-p%C3%A9ptica>. Access in 18 Mar 2020
  • AMB e CFM. Úlcera péptica. Projeto diretrizes. Disponível em: https://diretrizes.amb.org.br/_BibliotecaAntiga/ulcera-peptica.pdf . Acesso em: 18/03/2020.
  • BITTENCOURT, Paulo F. S. et al .. Úlcera péptica gastroduodenal e infecção pelo Helicobacter pylori na criança e adolescente. . J. Pediatr. (Rio J.). v. 82, n. 5, p. 325-334, 2006. Acesso em: 18/03/2020. Disponível em: .
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