ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Health»
  • Diseases, Disorders & Conditions

Identifying Signs and Symptoms of Stomach Ulcers

Updated on December 18, 2012

Stomach ulcers can be very serious and even life-threatening. Understanding how to identify the signs and symptoms of stomach ulcers is, therefore, important.

First, it is important to understand that stomach ulcers cannot and should not be diagnosed without a doctor's input as there are too many variables to be considered. Even if you have all the symptoms, there are other medical conditions that could be the culprit. So, don't rely on this or any other item on the Internet for diagnosis or treatment of any condition.

The stomach is an organ of digestion between the esophagus (food pipe) and the small intestine.
The stomach is an organ of digestion between the esophagus (food pipe) and the small intestine. | Source

Example of the Difference between Signs and Symptoms

Mr S. has a blocked artery in his heart.

He has symptoms of chest pain, shortness of breath, sweating and nausea. Symptoms are what you experience of feel.

When he is seen in the E.R., he has signs of heart disease such as changes on his EKG, a high troponin level on his labs and a low oxygen level. Signs are what the doctor sees or what shows up on lab or other testing.

Definitions

Before discussing the signs and symptoms of stomach ulcers, it is important to make sure the medical terminology is clear.

STOMACH: The stomach is a sac-like organ between the esophagus (food pipe) and the first part of the small intestine (duodenum). The stomach collects and is involved in the beginning mechanical processes of digestion, by churning and breaking down food. The stomach also secretes enzymes such as gastrin that aid in this early phase of digestion. Some people use "stomach" to refer to all parts of the gastrointestinal (digestive) system or all organs in the abdomen. In discussing stomach ulcers, the term refers only to the anatomic stomach organ.

ULCER: An ulcer is a disruption in the lining of a membrane. Ulcers represent the erosion of the normal tissue, causing a raw area or even a hole all the way through the lining or organ.

SYMPTOM: A symptom is something that you, the patient, notices that points to a disease or disorder.

SIGN: Medically, a sign is something a doctor sees or finds on exam or testing that points to a disease or disorder.


Causes of Stomach Ulcers

Stomach ulcers are also called gastric ulcers and form in the lining of the stomach. Gastric ulcers are a type of peptic ulcer. The other type is duodenal ulcer which forms in the duodenum (the top part of the small intestine). Peptic ulcers may form in the lining of the lower esophagus (food pipe), as well.

A quick word about the main causes of peptic ulcers can help us understand the symptoms and signs we might experience.

HELICOBACTER PYLORI

Very often, gastric ulcers (and the other peptic ulcers) are caused by, or related to Helicobacter pylori infection.H. pylori is a bacterium that has been found to be present in the gastrointestinal systems of many people. Some people with H. pylori develop serious acid reflux or peptic ulcers and others have no symptoms.

H. pylori can be detected by blood, breath or stool tests. If you have symptoms of acid reflux, gastritis or ulcer, you will be treated with antibiotics (usually two different ones) plus an acid blocker for two weeks or more.


NON-STEROIDAL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DRUGS (NSAIDS)


NSAID usage is another main cause of stomach ulcers in people who take these medications frequently over an extended period of time. The purpose of NSAID medications is to relieve pain. They do this quite well by inhibiting certain enzymes. Unfortunately, these enzymes are also needed to produce other substances called prostaglandins that help to protect the stomach lining. Without the prostaglandins, the lining of the stomach can be more easily damaged by stomach acid. Eventually, ulcers can form and bleed.

Some people who have stomach ulcers don't have either of these major risk factors.

What are the Symptoms of Stomach Ulcers

The stomach secretes acid in order to digest food. The lining of the stomach is usually adequate protection for the tissues underneath to keep it from being damaged by the acid. When that lining is disrupted for any reason, the tissues can be eaten away by acid. When this process occurs more rapidly or frequently than the healing response can fix it, ulcers can form.

SYMPTOMS OF STOMACH ULCERS

  • Pain shortly after eating
  • Heartburn
  • bloating
  • early satiety (feeling full after small meals)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • vomiting blood
  • blood in the stool

SIGNS OF STOMACH ULCERS:

If you present to your doctor or the emergency room with the above symptoms, the doctor may start to look for signs that can point to a diagnosis. If a gastric ulcer is present, you may have

  • abdominal tenderness or 'guarding' when your upper abdomen is examined
  • blood in the stool (that you can't see) detected on a rectal exam


How is a Stomach Ulcer Diagnosed

The history and physical exam will give hints that a stomach ulcer exists. Once it is suspected, an endoscopy can be done to confirm the diagnosis. An endoscope is a thin, flexible tube with a camera on the end. It can be passed down the esophagus, usually under a degree of sedation, to actually see the lining of the stomach. Ulcers, if present, can be seen and photographed.

As mentioned above, there are blood and breath tests that can be performed to confirm the presence of the H. pylori bacterium, the most common cause of peptic ulcers.

Other tests, such a xrays taken with special dye can also be used to detect ulcerations in the stomach and other parts of the digestive system.

This is what an ulcer looks like on endoscopy.

Treatment of Stomach Ulcers

Aside from causing pain, stomach ulcers can be the site of infection in the GI tract. More dangerously, they can erode through the wall and cause contamination of the abdominal cavity with stomach contents. This perforation is a life-and-death surgical emergency. The abdomen must be washed out and the hole sewed or stapled closed. A course of antibiotics will also be necessary.

For these reasons- to relieve pain and prevent complications, stomach ulcers are treated when they are diagnosed.

Controlling the amount and pH level of the stomach acid helps the lining of the stomach heal. Several kinds of medicines are used to achieve these goals.


 
 
 
 
H2 Blockers
block acid production
cimetidine, famotidine, ranitidine,
Tagamet, Pepcid, Zantac
Proton Pump Inhibitors
block acid production- stronger and longer lasting than H2 blockers
esomeprazole, lansoprazole, omeprazole, pantoprazole, rabeprazole
Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec, Protonix, Aciphex
Antibiotics
treat H. pylori infection
 
 
Protection of Stomach Lining
treat H. pylori and 'coat' the stomach to protect from acid
bismuth metabisulfite
Pepto-Bismol

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Stretch 3 years ago

      Arclites like this are an example of quick, helpful answers.

    • profile image

      donna marie 4 years ago

      I am a mild gastiritis person I had it one year know I haave good and bad days I am onn herbal life and it workes the florafiba works

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      Stomach ulcers are so painful, and can be dangerous - and they're a mystery to most people. Great advice and a good education on what they're all about - voted up!

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James-MizBejabbers 5 years ago

      Tahoe Doc, a very good elementry lesson on stomach ulcers. Even I understood it. I've known people who had ulcers, and they seemed to be in a lot of pain. Thanks. Voted up and useful.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)