What is a Stomach Ulcer?
A stomach ulcer (also called a peptic ulcer) is a small erosion
(hole) in the gastrointestinal tract. The most common type,
duodenal, occurs in the first 12 inches of small intestine beyond
the stomach. Ulcers that form in the stomach are called gastric
ulcers. An ulcer is not contagious or cancerous. Duodenal ulcers
are almost always benign, while stomach ulcers may become
Stomach ulcer disease is common, affecting millions of Americans
yearly. The size of a stomach ulcer can range between 1/8 of an
inch to 3/4 of an inch.
Find out more information about
the stomach, or view it in relation to other organs in the body.
Children develop stomach ulcers too.
Stomach Ulcers may be a symptom of another disease or condition.
Stomach ulcers are often common in mastocytosis. Bleeding from
stomach ulcers may cause iron deficiency anemia.
What causes Stomach Ulcers?
The direct cause of peptic ulcers is the destruction of the
gastric or intestinal mucosal lining of the stomach by
hydrochloric acid, an acid normally present in the digestive
juices of the stomach. Infection with the bacterium Helicobacter
pylori is thought to play an important role in causing both
gastric and duodenal ulcers. Helicobacter pylori may be
transmitted from person to person through contaminated food and
water. Antibiotics are the most effective treatment for
Helicobacter pylori peptic ulcers.
Injury of the gastric mucosal lining, and weakening of the mucous
defenses are also responsible for gastric ulcers. Excess secretion
of hydrochloric acid, genetic predisposition, and psychological
stress are important contributing factors in the formation and
worsening of duodenal ulcers.
Another major cause of ulcers is the chronic use of
anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin. Cigarette smoking
is also an important cause of ulcer formation and ulcer treatment
Stomach Ulcer symptoms
The major symptom of an ulcer is a burning or gnawing feeling in
the stomach area that lasts between 30 minutes and 3 hours. This
pain is often interpreted as heartburn, indigestion or hunger. The
pain usually occurs in the upper abdomen, but sometimes it may
occur below the breastbone. In some individuals the pain occurs
immediately after eating. In other individuals, the pain may not
occur until hours after eating. The pain frequently awakens the
person at night. Weeks of pain may be followed by weeks of not
having pain. Pain can be relieved by drinking milk, eating,
resting, or taking antacids.
Appetite and weight loss are other symptoms. Persons with duodenal
ulcers may experience weight gain because the persons eats more to
ease discomfort. Recurrent vomiting, black stool, blood in the
stool and anemia are other symptoms.
What does a Stomach Ulcer affect?
The main thing that a stomach ulcer affects is the nerves
surrounding it. The nerves become agitated and cause a great
amount of pain. However, stomach ulcers can cause hemorrhages from
the erosion of a major blood vessel; a tear in the wall of the
stomach or intestine, with resultant peritonitis; or obstruction
of the gastrointestinal tract because of spasm or swelling in the
area of the ulcer.
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