Stomach ulcers, also known as peptic or gastric ulcers, develop when the lining of the gastrointestinal tract is damaged and eroded. These ulcers are fairly common and a majority of the population suffers from gastric ulcers at some point or other in life. These ulcers can be extremely uncomfortable and should be treated quickly. Gastric ulcers are generally benign, although if left untreated, some of them can eventually become malignant.
The size of a stomach ulcer can vary from an eighth of an inch to three fourths of an inch. A stomach ulcer is a symptom of another disease and is caused when hydrochloric acid (generally found in the digestive juices present in the stomach) causes damage to the gastric mucosal lining of the stomach. A bacterium known as Helicobacter pylori can cause gastric and duodenal ulcers. This bacterium is easily transmitted through food and water from person to person, and can be eliminated by the administration of antibiotics.
Causes of Stomach Ulcers:
- Injury to the gastric mucosal lining
- Excess secretion of hydrochloric acid
- Psychological stress
- Genetic factors
- Long term use of anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin and corticosteroids
- Irregular meals
- Chronic diseases such as liver disease and rheumatoid arthritis
- Zollinger-Ellison syndrome
- Cigarette smoking
- Consumption of alcohol
Symptoms of Stomach Ulcers:
- Burning sensation in the abdomen
- Pain in the chest
- Frequent burping
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of weight
- Blood in feces or vomit
Stomach Ulcers and Weight Loss
One of the symptoms of a stomach ulcer is a steady loss of weight despite a standard diet. If you have a stomach ulcer, your appetite is adversely affected and this in turn exacerbates the amount of weight lost. Since nausea and vomiting are other symptoms of stomach ulcers, they result in an additional loss of weight. The lining of the stomach is damaged and the scar tissue that’s formed blocks the passageway to the stomach. This results in a loss of appetite and a subsequent loss of weight. Gastric ulcers cause edema or swelling of the tissues that lead from the stomach into the small intestine, and prevent the food from passing out of the stomach. This gives a false feeling of fullness and results in a loss of appetite. Hunger is sated even though a sufficient amount of food hasn’t been ingested. This in turn gives rise to weight loss. Hence, there are many reasons why you can lose weight if you suffer from stomach ulcers.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Stomach Ulcers
Blood and stool tests can help confirm the presence of H. pylori bacteria and can indicate the presence of a stomach ulcer. An endoscopy can help evaluate the ulcer and a Barium contrast X-ray can determine the severity and size of the ulcer present. Antibiotics help to get rid of the H. pylori infection, and medications that inhibit the production of gastric acids can promote healing of gastric ulcers.
Stomach ulcers have a tendency to recur even after they have been treated completely. It’s best to abstain from spicy food, smoking and alcohol to avoid recurrence. Drugs such as NSAIDs and aspirin should only be taken after a discussion with the doctor.