Peptic ulcers are those open sores or lesions that develop on the inner lining of the stomach, duodenum and the lower parts of the esophagus. Otherwise known as stomach ulcers, peptic ulcers are classified into three types, based on the location. Those of the stomach are gastric ulcers and those found in the duodenum are duodenal ulcers. Ulcers of the lower esophagus (esophageal ulcers) are uncommon, whereas duodenal ulcers are said to be the most common form of peptic ulcers. It is said that duodenal ulcers are more common in men and women are more prone to develop gastric ulcers. But, this observation is viewed as baseless, by some health experts. As per this group, both men and women are equally prone to develop these ulcers and even the symptoms are found to be almost similar.
Signs and Symptoms of Gastric Ulcers
So, gastric ulcers are open sores or lesions that develop on the inner lining of the stomach. Such sores are said to occur due to the erosion of the mucosal lining of the stomach. This happens when the natural balance between the stomach acids and the amount of mucus that coats the inner lining gets disturbed. Such imbalance can be triggered by various factors. But, the most common among them is Helicobacter pylori infection. Another cause is regular use of NSAIDs, which is said to be mostly done by women, who are more prone to develop aches and pains, like migraine. Stress, regular smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, are said to be among the contributory factors for gastric ulcers.
Even though, the symptoms of gastric ulcers may not be the same for everyone, there are some common ones. But, there is no clear-cut distinction between gastric ulcer symptoms in women and men.
- The most common symptom of gastric ulcers is abdominal pain, that may be experienced anywhere from the navel to the breastbone. But, it is mostly felt under the left ribcage.
- The pain can be episodic in nature and the duration may vary from a few minutes to a few hours. It is often described as a gnawing or burning pain.
- It has been noticed that most of the gastric ulcer patients develop abdominal pain, soon after meals, whereas, in case of duodenal ulcers, the pain usually starts when the stomach is empty. So, food can relieve the pain in duodenal ulcers, but, increase the discomfort in case of gastric ulcers.
- In some cases, the pain (caused by gastric ulcers) may radiate to the back and this is mostly seen in those people, whose ulcers have eroded the stomach wall and also affected the nearby organs like pancreas.
- Those with gastric ulcers may also have other symptoms like belching, indigestion, heartburn and bloating. The affected person may also experience nausea, loss of appetite, weight loss, dizziness and fatigue.
- If you have a bleeding ulcer, it may happen that you have no symptoms at all. But, in some cases, black tarry stools and anemia may develop. Some people may also vomit red blood or digested blood that may appear as coffee grounds.
- Another complication of gastric ulcer is perforation. This condition is caused by the ulcer eroding the stomach or the duodenal wall. It is a medical emergency and may be accompanied with symptoms like vomiting blood, sudden and sharp abdominal pain and tarry stools.
While it is true that each and every person with this type of ulcer may not develop all the above said symptoms. In case you develop any of the above said symptoms, then, contact your doctor and get the condition diagnosed and treated. Treatment for gastric ulcers depends on the underlying cause, its severity and location. Antibiotics, along with acid suppressant and antacids, are usually prescribed in case of Helicobacter pylori infection. If these ulcers are caused by other factors, then, medication like acid suppressant and antacids are used for treatment. If the ulcers do not respond to medication, then other techniques like endotherapy and surgery, may be suggested.
Surgical treatment for gastric ulcers includes vagotomy (removal of parts of vagus nerve that controls production of acid in the stomach) and antrectomy (removing the lower part of the stomach, where, acid is produced). Usually, surgery is the last option, when all other methods of treating ulcers fail to relieve the condition. It is said that a healthy lifestyle may prove beneficial for preventing gastric ulcers to a large extent. You must go for a nutritious as well as fiber-rich diet and adopt a suitable exercise regimen. Avoid taking NSAIDs, unnecessarily. Beat the stress with techniques like breathing exercises, meditation and yoga.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.