Peptic ulcers are open sores that develop on the inside lining of the stomach and upper portion of the small intestine. They cause discomfort and pain in the abdomen, often interfering with the daily routine of the patient. Ulcers can range in size and develop at any age, but mostly occur in middle-aged adults. They are given different names, depending on where and why they happen.
Peptic ulcers are classified into:
- Gastric ulcers that develop inside the stomach
- Esophageal ulcers that form inside the esophagus
- Duodenal ulcers that appear in the upper portion of the small intestine called duodenum
1. Causes of stomach ulcers
The stomach has a thick layer of mucus to protect it from digestive juices and acids. When the layer thins down, the digestive acids eat away at the tissues lining the stomach, leading to ulcers. Small ulcers might not lead to any symptoms and are not disturbing. But the large ones can cause serious bleeding.
Most ulcers occur only in the first layer of the inner lining in the stomach. However, it can erode beyond that lining to form a hole and reach the intestine. It can cause a perforation of the intestinal lining and cause chronic issues that need medical attention immediately.
Early warning signs of peptic ulcers also depend on other causes like:
- Infection and inflammation caused by Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria that grows in the digestive tract
- Regular usage of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin
- Regularly smoking or drinking alcohol
- Radiation therapy
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease affecting the lower esophageal sphincter that includes the return of digestive acids or stomach contents back into the esophagus
2. Symptoms of stomach ulcers
The symptoms of stomach ulcers depend on several factors. Depending on the severity of the ulcer, the symptoms will vary. One of the early warning signs of peptic ulcers is a moderate burning sensation or pain in the abdomen. The pain can be severe when the stomach is empty and can last for a few minutes to a few hours.
Mentioned below are other common symptoms of stomach ulcers that can become severe:
- Dull to severe pain or burning sensation in the chest or the stomach
- Loss of appetite
- Not wanting to eat because of pain
- Feeling full by consuming very little amount of food
- Nausea and vomiting, sometimes with blood
- Gastrointestinal problems like belching, indigestion, and excess flatulence
- Dark and tarry stools, sometimes accompanied by blood
- Anemia including shortness of breath and pale skin
- Unexplained weight loss
- Difficulty swallowing food
- Abdomen pain that can transfer to the back
These early warning signs of peptic ulcers depend on the complications that lead to this condition. Though most complications are not serious in the beginning, they can become serious causes of stomach ulcers if left untreated. Peptic ulcers can interfere with your personal and professional life where your daily routine gets affected.
Taking an antacid may give temporary relief. However, if symptoms recur, it’s advisable to consult your doctor to determine whether you need prescription medication and other treatments.