Ulcers are sores on the lining of your digestive tract (see picture below). Most ulcers are located in the duodenum. The duodenum is the first part of the intestine and starts just after your stomach. These ulcers are called duodenal ulcers. Ulcers located in the stomach are called gastric ulcers. Ulcers in the esophagus are called esophageal ulcers. Two other disorders are much like ulcers. These are an inflamed lower esophagus (esophagitis) and an inflamed stomach lining (gastritis).
What Causes Ulcers?
For almost 100 years, doctors believed that ulcers were caused by stress and spicy foods. Then, in 1982, two doctors (Barry Marshall and Robin Warren) made a great discovery. They discovered that a certain kind of bacteria lives and grows in the stomach.
And these bacteria were causing most ulcers.
Peptic Ulcers Symptoms
Ulcers do not always cause symptoms. Sometimes, a serious complication such as bleeding is the first sign of an ulcer. The most common symptom of peptic ulcers by far is abdominal pain.
· The pain is usually in the upper middle part of the abdomen, above the belly button (navel) and below the breastbone.
The stomach ulcer and the ulcer of the duodenum (at the very bottom of the stomach structure – the first few inches of the beginning of the small intestine) are erosions of the tissue (mucosa) which lines (forms the inner surface of) the gastrointestinal tract. All parts of the body exposed to the environment – except the skin – have this protective lining. The mucosal tissue is primarily comprised of what are called epithelial cells, attached to what is called the basement membrane. The epithelial mucosal cells secrete mucous – so now you know why this tissue is called mucosal tissue
There are lifestyle changes that you can make to help your ulcers heal and prevent them coming back. These self-help measures include:
· not having food and drink that seems to cause more severe symptoms – these foods can include spicy foods, coffee and alcohol
· stopping smoking
· not taking painkillers that are likely to cause ulcers in the future – your GP or pharmacist can give you advice on other medicines you could take instead
Symptoms of Stomach Ulcers
Stomach (or peptic) ulcers may produce few or no symptoms, or they may cause burning, gnawing pain in the upper middle part of the abdomen that is relieved by eating or taking an antacid. Stomach ulcers often are not consistent. For example, eating sometimes will make the pain worse rather than better with certain types of ulcers, such as pyloric channel ulcers, which are often associated with bloating, nausea and vomiting, symptoms of a blockage caused by swelling (edema) and scarring.
· Breath Test for H. pylori
· Fecal Occult Blood Test
· Helicobacter pylori Test
· Upper Endoscopy
· Upper GI Endoscopy
· Upper GI Series
Things to remember
· A stomach or gastric ulcer is a break in the tissue lining of the stomach.
· Most stomach ulcers are caused by infection with the Helicobacter pylori bacterium or anti-inflammatory medication, not stress or poor diet as once thought.
· Treatment options include antibiotics and acid-suppressing medications.