Signs and symptoms of gastric ulcers

Written by amber kelsey
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Signs and symptoms of gastric ulcers
(Creative Commons photo by Wikmedia)

A gastric ulcer is a peptic ulcer that occurs in the stomach. Gastric ulcers are open sores or raw areas that form when hydrochloric acid (HCI) erodes through the protective tissue of the stomach lining. A majority of gastric ulcers are caused by either a long-time use of certain non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) or by a bacterial infection. The signs and symptoms of gastric ulcers vary from patient to patient. Here are some of the more common symptoms of gastric ulcers.

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Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain is the most common symptom of a gastric ulcer. This pain can be burning, gnawing or aching, and it might feel similar to hunger pains. The pain occurs anywhere between the navel and the breastbone, and occasionally spreads to the back. The most common location for gastric ulcer pain is just beneath the rib cage on the left side of the body. Gastric ulcer pain frequently attacks within two to three hours of eating a meal but can also occur at night when the stomach is empty.

Indigestion

Another common gastric ulcer symptom is indigestion, which typically involves a burning sensation in the middle of the chest. This indigestion can make a gastric ulcer sufferer burp, belch or hiccup quite frequently. Some gastric ulcer patients feel a slight choking sensation during a bout of indigestion. The indigestion usually disappears after taking an acid reducer or an antacid. This symptom is frequently mistaken for simple heartburn or gastro-oseophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Other Symptoms

Gastric ulcer patients can suffer from a host of other symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness, fatigue, weakness and pale skin. Gastric ulcers occasionally produce scar tissue that obstructs the passage of food through an individual's digestive tract. This can cause the patient to vomit frequently or feel quite full after eating very little. Some individuals report feeling bloated after eating, while others complain of significantly decreased appetite levels. All of these factors can cause unintentional weight loss.

Bleeding Gastric Ulcers

A bleeding gastric ulcer can trigger less common but potentially more serious symptoms. A bleeding ulcer can cause a patient to throw up bright red blood or to vomit digested blood that looks similar to brown coffee grounds. A bleeding ulcer might also cause a patient to pass stools that contain dark red blood or to pass black stools that look like tar. All of these are signs of a severe gastric ulcer. Any individual suffering from these symptoms should schedule an appointment to see a doctor as soon as possible.

Treatment

Gastric ulcer treatment typically involves killing any bacteria and reducing the level of stomach acid. Most doctors prescribe patients with an antibiotic medicine such as amoxicillin to treat a bacterial infection. Physicians also typically prescribe acid blockers to decrease the amount of hydrochloric acid being released into a patient's digestive tract. The acid-blocking medication usually relieves the ulcer pain and promotes the healing of the stomach lining. A doctor might include an antacid in a patient's medication regime to neutralise the stomach acid and provide faster pain relief.

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