Ulcer of the stomach: symptoms, causes and treatments
A true hole in the stomach wall, the digestive ulcer is mainly manifested by pain and a burning sensation. Sometimes associated with stress, sometimes with food, the stomach ulcer is in most cases caused by a bacterium. How do you recognize the first signs? What are the causes of digestive ulcers? How to take charge?
How is an ulcer of the stomach formed?
To aid the digestion of food, our stomach produces gastric juice. This liquid contains several components, including hydrochloric acid. A protective barrier, called mucus, lines the stomach wall to protect it from acid attack. When the acidity is too important, it causes inflammation of the digestive wall: it is called gastritis. If nothing is done to correct this imbalance, the wall of the stomach eventually pierces and an ulcer is formed.
Symptoms and possible complications
Acid attacks, which cause the formation of stomach ulcers, result in recurrent abdominal pain and a burning sensation that intensifies when the subject is feeding. He feels bloated and is quickly satiated. Nevertheless, he feels as though he is still hungry for one or two hours after meals.
Depending on the patient, other symptoms may appear:
- Nausea and vomiting,
- Weight loss related to loss of appetite,
- Pale skin,
- Presence of blood in stools or in vomiting.
If no treatment is initiated, the stomach ulcer is likely to cause complications. Upper gastrointestinal bleeding is the most common. It is characterized by vomiting of blood, black diarrhea composed of digested blood or anemia. There is also a risk of gastric perforation, which can lead to peritonitis (inflammation of the peritoneum).
What are the causes of stomach ulcer?
In about 70% of patients, the stomach ulcer is of bacterial origin. The bacterium responsible, called Helicobacter pylori, has a strong resistance to acids. It colonizes the mucus that protects the stomach from acidity, making it more vulnerable.
Apart from the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, gastric ulcer may be due to:
- A drug, especially a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as aspirin,
- Food, especially excessive consumption of coffee, alcohol or spicy dishes,
- Has prolonged stress,
- Has a digestive, cardiac, renal or hepatic disease,
- At smoking which increases the secretion of acids,
- More rarely, at a Zollinger-Ellison syndrome.
NB: The genetic factor may play a role in the formation of stomach ulcers because some people have more fragile digestive cells than others.
Ulcer in the stomach: how is the diagnosis made?
As soon as the first signs appear, a gastroenterologist should be consulted to avoid complications. He will conduct an interrogation that will allow him to guide his diagnosis. Examinations should be made to rule out other possible causes of symptoms, such as gastroesophageal reflux. Endoscopy, which involves exploring the stomach wall with a small camera, will highlight the ulcer. On the screen, the lesion will appear as a small crater in the middle of the digestive mucosa. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, samples should be taken (biopsy) to ensure that it is not a cancerous lesion. These samples will determine if the bacterium Helicobacter pylori is at the origin of the ulcer.
Ulcer to the stomach: what support?
The reference treatment is medicated. It aims to relieve symptoms, heal the wound and prevent recurrence. Anti-secretory drugs are prescribed to accelerate healing. In case of bacterial infection, antibiotic therapy will be put in place for about 10 days (amoxicillin, metronidazole, clarithromycin). Surgery is reserved for the most serious cases, when complications appear (hemorrhage, perforation). It is sometimes necessary to remove part of the stomach.
Read also :
⋙ Helicobacter pylori: 5 things to know about this bacterium responsible for ulcers
⋙ Gastroesophageal reflux, GERD: 12 quick and easy tips to relieve it
⋙ Bloating, gastric acidity: osteopathy, an effective solution against digestive disorders