Gnawing, burning, aching … oh the pain of a stomach ulcer! The pain of a stomach ulcer is generally felt in the upper middle abdomen and is often mistaken as just your basic garden variety heartburn. But make no mistake, even though heartburn can certainly turn out to be quite serious, a stomach ulcer can lead to complications as well. A serious complication of stomach ulcers is bleeding. This occurs when the raw and open area of the ulcer in the stomach lining begins to bleed. A bleeding ulcer requires medical intervention.
So what causes a stomach ulcer? There are several different theories but the most credible theories include one thing. The basic cause of a stomach ulcer is the destruction of the protective lining of the stomach leading to the development of a raw open or ulcerated area. The lining of the stomach is a protective one, meaning if there is a break in that lining then that area of the stomach is left unprotected and susceptible to ulcers.
Again, remember the basics, it really is quite simple … a stomach ulcer occurs when there is a breakdown in the protective lining. This breakdown occurs when the intestinal or gastric mucosal lining of the stomach is destroyed by hydrochloric acid, an acid which is normally present in the digestive juices of the stomach.
The lining of the stomach has a protective layer of mucus that keeps the stomach from damage resulting from the presence of gastric juices and stomach acids. However, when this protective layer sustains damage, then an ulcer may occur. When the stomach's natural acids and the protective defenses of the stomach's lining get out of balance then it is more likely that stomach ulcers are will occur.
A stomach ulcer may also occur as a result of a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori or H. pylori. The presence of this infectious bacterium is one of the most common causes of stomach ulcers and is thought to be a key player in the development of both gastric and duodenal ulcers. Transmission of this bacterium occurs person to person through contaminated food and water.
Other contributive causes of duodenal ulcers include excessive secretion of hydrochloric acid, genetic or familial predisposition, and psychological stress. These same factors can also cause duodenal ulcers to worsen. Excessive use of anti-inflammatory medications or aspirin, smoking, obesity, and simply aging can also be contributing factors in the development of stomach ulcers.
Causes of stomach ulcers are varied but many can be controlled by basic lifestyle changes. Working closely with your family physician is the best resource to learning to heal and control your stomach ulcer.