Manhattan Gastroenterology
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Recurring acid reflux, bloating, nausea and vomiting, and burning pain in the abdomen are not good signs and indicate you have a stomach ulcer. An ulcer means your natural stomach acid is affecting the protective stomach lining, and it may only worsen if you do not manage it timely. Do not let these symptoms affect your life and health. Call your gastroenterologist to learn more about stomach ulcers and treating the underlying issue to prevent complications. The board-certified and experienced gastro doctors at Manhattan Gastroenterology use state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment and methods to identify your recurring symptoms and their causes. They also recommend the best remedies and treatment plans to help you feel better without giving up the foods you enjoy.

Stomach Ulcer
Stomach Ulcer

Ulcers are sores on the lining of your stomach or small intestine. They occur when the gastric acid damages the protective stomach lining. The acid produces open sores that can bleed and cause stomach pain with other symptoms. Stomach ulcers are called peptic or gastric ulcers.

Most ulcers are located in the small intestine and they are called duodenal ulcers. They could also occur on your esophagus or throat. They are called esophageal ulcers. Ulcers are common and can be treated with the right medications, but they should not be taken lightly. Symptoms can be mild, but when left untreated, a stomach ulcer can become severe and may require surgery.

Signs of Stomach Ulcer

Knowing about the signs of a stomach ulcer can help you understand the symptoms better and seek medical help timely.

Burning Pain in the Abdomen

Persistent burning pain in the abdomen is one of the first signs of a stomach ulcer. The sensation of pain occurs when juices in the stomach, which help in digestion, come into contact with an open sore in the stomach lining.

In most cases, the pain is felt from the breast bone to the navel, and it often worsens during the night. If you skip meals, particularly breakfast, you may also experience this burning sensation in the stomach during the daytime.

If the dull and burning ache of the ulcer often turns into a sharp, stabbing pain, it is a sign that your ulcer is acting up and you need medical help. It could mean that the ulcer has caused a more critical problem like a perforation in the wall of your stomach or intestine, or a blockage in your digestive tract, and it is triggering intense pain.

Vomiting

Vomiting is another common sign of stomach ulcers. These ulcers can make you feel sick to your stomach, especially early in the morning when you have been without food for too long. They produce an inflammatory response in the stomach, which causes contractions, and if they get strong enough, you will throw up.

In some cases, you may find traces of blood in your vomit which is serious, and you should seek immediate medical help without wasting time. Ulcers often cause your vomit to look similar to coffee grinds, which means they are dark brown in color.

Nausea

Peptic ulcers can cause an upset stomach. A peptic ulcer is a sore that forms when the digestive juices wear away the lining of the digestive system. This ulcer could occur in the lining of the stomach, duodenum, or lower parts of the esophagus. Commonly experienced symptoms include pain associated with indigestion, weight loss, and nausea.

If you have been vomiting, you have already been feeling nauseous for some time. Most of this nausea occurs early in the morning, and it subsides once the vomiting begins. If your vomiting or nausea does not go away or seems to be worsening, call your doctor to avoid dehydration and other compilations.

Black or Dark-Colored Stool

If you think you have a stomach ulcer, take a look at your stool, and it will give you a hint about what you may suffering from. Extremely dark or even black-colored stools indicate you have an ulcer. If you are having black or dark-colored stools, call your doctor as it may be a warning sign that your ulcer is bleeding and it is the traces of blood you are seeing.

Loss of Weight

Another sign of a stomach ulcer is a complete loss of appetite that will result in weight loss. When the stomach lining is damaged, it can lead to the formation of scar tissues that block the food passageway and cause potential swelling in the small intestines. It can prevent the food from moving through your stomach into the small intestine and getting digested the right way, affecting the digestive process.

It will make you feel full even when you have not eaten anything. Such a condition can turn serious if it persists, and you must seek medical help to ensure your body continues to get the nutrients it needs to function normally.

Bloating

Many ulcers are caused by H. pylori, a general but harmful bacterium. Too much bacteria in your intestine can result in bloating and burping from the extra production of gas. Ulcers can result in scarred tissues in the stomach, which leads to the build-up of gas in the intestines and feelings of bloating and burping.

If your doctor diagnoses you with H. pylori stomach ulcer, you will be prescribed antibiotics. Antibiotics help to get rid of the harmful agents effectively and prevent bloating.

Anemia

It is a condition during which your body does not have sufficient healthy red blood cells to carry the required oxygen to the tissues in various parts of the body. Having anemia, also referred to as low hemoglobin, can make you feel tired and weak.

Many people who have anemia may not have an ulcer at all. But, if you have all the other symptoms of stomach ulcers and experience fatigue, dizziness, or paleness, it could be due to anemia. These symptoms occur when you lose a significant amount of blood due to the hemorrhage from the ulcer.

Acid Reflux

When the lower esophageal sphincter does not close after you have eaten or opens too frequently, the acid produced by stomach for food digestion food makes its way up into the esophagus. It is known as acid reflux and can lead to severe heartburn and feelings of nausea and vomiting.

If your pain is higher than your breast bone, it is probably heartburn, but it does not mean you don’t have an ulcer. If the acid reflux symptoms persist more than twice a week, you must be suffering from acid reflux disease, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

What Does a Stomach Ulcer Feel Like?

Stomach ulcer pain usually begins in the upper-middle parts of the abdomen, above the belly button, and below the breastbone. Heartburn covers a broader area and tends to be higher in the chest. The pain is often very similar to heartburn and may feel like burning or gnawing that may go through to the back. The onset of the pain may occur several hours after a meal when the stomach is empty.

You could have heartburn and ulcer pain at the same time. Pain may vary from a few minutes to several hours. Usually, people complain that their heartburn is worse at night. It can be relieved with foods, antacids, or even vomiting. If you suspect you have a stomach ulcer, seek medical attention as soon as possible to prevent any complications. These symptoms could only worsen with time if your ulcer goes untreated. Getting these symptoms diagnosed by a trained gastroenterologist for timely treatment is crucial for your overall health.

What Triggers Stomach Ulcer Symptoms?

Stomach ulcer symptoms are irritated by several triggers. They include:

  • Stomach acid – some people notice it after they eat while others notice it more on an empty stomach
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Stress
  • Spicy foods
  • Aspirin or anti-inflammatory medicines

How Is a Stomach Ulcer Diagnosed?

The symptoms of stomach ulcers are sufficient to give you an idea about what you may be suffering from, but it is best to visit your healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis. The doctor will ask you about your symptoms, how long they have been occurring, and your medical history to understand your condition better.

Tests that can confirm a diagnosis include:

  • Blood test to check for H. Pylori, though a positive test does not always mean there is an active infection
  • Breathe test, using a radioactive carbon atom to detect H. Pylori
  • Stool antigen test to identify H. Pylori in the feces
  • Upper gastrointestinal (GI) X-ray to identify ulcers
  • Endoscopy to look inside your stomach and duodenum
  • CT scan to look for complications such as a perforation in the stomach or intestinal wall

How Are Stomach Ulcers Treated?

Ulcers can get better if you take a rest from factors that trigger them, such as spicy foods, reducing intake of aspirin, and anti-inflammatory drugs. Gastro doctors can treat uncomplicated ulcers with a combination of medications that reduce stomach acid, protect the ulcers during the healing, and kill the bacterial infection that could be the culprit.

Medications for treating ulcers include:

  • Antibiotics to kill the H. pylori bacteria
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) to reduce stomach acid and protect the stomach lining
  • Histamine receptor blockers to reduce stomach acid production
  • Antacids
  • Pepto-Bismol to coat and protect the ulcer from stomach acid

Most ulcers get better with medication, but some complicated ulcers may require surgery. Ulcers that are bleeding or have torn away the stomach or intestinal wall need surgical intervention. Also, a malignant ulcer that obstructs the passageway needs to be removed surgically. The doctor will recommend the best option to treat your ulcers, depending on the severity of your condition.

Signs and symptoms of ulcers are not only irritating, but they can turn out to be dangerous if you do not pay attention to what your body is telling you and seek medical help. Gastrointestinal symptoms may also point toward some urgent health problem that must be identified accurately for lasting relief. The top-rated doctors at Manhattan Gastroenterology are experts at diagnosing, preventing, and treating diseases and disorders of the GI tract and use the best methods to learn what is troubling your digestive system. They come up with the best solutions to improve your gastrointestinal health and make sure you feel better within the shortest possible time.

Updated on May 10, 2022 by Dr. Shawn Khodadadian (Gastroenterologist) of Manhattan Gastroenterology