stomach ulcer

A stomach ulcer usually feels like a dull burning pain the abdomen area when your stomach is empty. This pain may be eased by eating specific types of food or taking an antacid. Pain is also eased by eating specific foods that buffer stomach acid. However, the pain relief is temporary and will come back.

A stomach ulcer (also called a peptic ulcer or a gastric ulcer) is a small erosion (hole) in the gastrointestinal tract. The most common type of stomach ulcer is a duodenal ulcer. Duodenal ulcers occur in the first 12 inches of small intestine beyond the stomach. Ulcers that form in the stomach are called gastric ulcers. An ulcer is not contagious or cancerous. Duodenal ulcers are almost always benign, while stomach ulcers may become malignant.

Stomach ulcer disease is common, affecting millions of Americans yearly. The size of a stomach ulcer can range between 1/8 of an inch to 3/4 of an inch.

The stomach lies on the left side of the abdomen. It has a shape similar to a banana. It is the area of the abdomen that runners experience ‘side stitches’.

Adults are not the only ones who develop stomach ulcers. Children and adolescents develop stomach ulcers too.

Stomach ulcers are very common. Stomach ulcers may be a symptom of another disease or condition. Stomach ulcers are often common in mastocytosis. Internal bleeding from stomach ulcers may cause iron deficiency anemia.

What causes stomach ulcers?

There are several causes of stomach ulcers:

  1. Destruction of the gastric or intestinal mucosal lining of the stomach by hydrochloric acid.
    • Hydrochloric acid is normally present in the digestive juices of the stomach.
  2. Infection with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori is thought to play an important role in causing both gastric and duodenal ulcers.
    • Helicobacter pylori may be transmitted from person to person through contaminated food and water.
    • Antibiotics are the most effective treatment for Helicobacter pylori peptic ulcers.
  3. Injury of the gastric mucosal lining, and weakening of the mucous defenses are also responsible for gastric ulcers.
  4. Excess secretion of hydrochloric acid, genetic predisposition, and psychological stress are important contributing factors in the formation and worsening of duodenal ulcers.
  5. Another major cause of ulcers is the chronic use of anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin.
  6. Cigarette smoking is also an important cause of ulcer formation and ulcer treatment failure.

CBD oils and stomach ulcers

CBD (cannabidiol) and CBDa have been touted as remedies to conditions ranging from autism to cancer. While CBD can help reduce several types of symptoms, its effectiveness varies greatly from person to person and depends on many factors, including the CBD to THC ratio, dosage, and whether it is hemp-based or cannabis based.

If you are considering adding CBD to your treatment options, first consult with your doctor or a doctor who is experienced in prescribing medicinal cannabis.

Questions to ask our doctor about CBD

  • Will CBD help with my stomach ulcer?
  • What type of relief should I expect while taking CBD?
  • What is the best way to take CBD?
    • Orally (edibles, tinctures, oils)
    • Smoke
    • Topical (creams, lotions, oils)
  • How long will it take to experience relief?
  • How often do I need to take it?
  • Should I take broad spectrum, isolate, or full spectrum CBD products?
  • Will symptoms return if I stop taking it?
  • What emergency symptoms indicate I should visit an Urgent Care center?
  • How will I know if it is working?

Stomach ulcer symptoms

The major symptom of an ulcer is a burning or gnawing feeling in the stomach area that lasts between 30 minutes and 3 hours. This pain is often interpreted as heartburn, indigestion or hunger. The pain usually occurs in the upper abdomen, but sometimes it may occur below the breastbone.

In some individuals the pain occurs immediately after eating. In other individuals, the pain may not occur until hours after eating. The pain frequently awakens the person at night. Weeks of pain may be followed by weeks of not having pain. Pain can be relieved by drinking milk, eating, resting, or taking antacids.

Appetite and weight loss are other symptoms of a stomach ulcer. Persons with duodenal ulcers may experience weight gain because the persons eats more to ease discomfort. Recurrent vomiting, blood in the stool and anemia are also symptoms of a stomach ulcer.

In severe cases, symptoms of a stomach ulcer may include:

  • dark or black stool (caused by internal bleeding)
  • vomiting blood (vomit may be grainy and black like “coffee-grounds”)
  • weight loss
  • severe pain in the mid to upper abdomen

What does a stomach ulcer affect?

The main thing that a stomach ulcer affects is the nerves surrounding it. The nerves become agitated and cause a great amount of pain. Stomach ulcers can cause hemorrhages from the erosion of a major blood vessel; a tear in the wall of the stomach or intestine, with resultant peritonitis; or obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract because of spasm or swelling in the area of the ulcer.

Stomach ulcers pain can be alleviated by medicine and changing to a “stomach ulcer diet”. However, changing your diet is only one of the many steps to help treat ulcers. And it is best to consult with your doctor or dietitian before making drastic changes to your diet. Stomach ulcer diets are designed to reduce stomach ulcer pain, gastric irritation and excessive gastric acid secretion.

Stomach ulcer statistics

  • about 20 million Americans develop at least one stomach ulcer during their lifetime
  • stomach ulcers affect about 4 million Americans every year
  • more than 40,000 Americans have surgery because of persistent symptoms or problems from ulcers every year
  • about 6,000 Americans die of stomach ulcer-related complications every year

Stomach ulcer treatment

Risks of developing a stomach ulcer

  • family history of ulcers
  • smoking
  • excess alcohol consumption
  • use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (aspirin) or corticosteroids.
  • Zollinger-Ellison syndrome
  • improper diet, irregular or skipped meals
  • type O blood (for duodenal ulcers)
  • stress does not cause an ulcer, but may be a contributing factor
  • chronic disorders such as liver disease, emphysema, rheumatoid arthritis may increase vulnerability to ulcers

Is a stomach ulcer serious?

Many stomach ulcers heal on their own. However, it is important to seek medical attention if you believe you have a stomach ulcer. If not properly treated, stomach ulcers can lead to serious health problems, including:

  • internal bleeding
  • a hole through the wall of the stomach
  • gastric outlet obstruction from swelling or scarring that blocks the passageway leading from the stomach to the small intestine

Blood in vomit

Vomiting blood is never a good sign and you should seek a doctor immediately. If the bloody vomit is accompanied by a burning or gnawing pain in your stomach, it is probably caused by either a stomach ulcer or gastritis (severe inflammation of the stomach lining).

Vomiting old, undigested food

Ulcers located at the end of the stomach can cause swelling and scaring. If the swelling or scaring is significant enough, food will be blocked from leaving the stomach, resulting in vomiting of old, partially digested food.

Questions to ask your doctor about your stomach ulcer

  • How big is my ulcer?
  • How many ulcers do I have
  • Will my ulcers grow?
  • Will my ulcers shrink?
  • Should I change my diet?
    • What foods should I eat?
    • What foods should I stay away from?
    • Will organic foods make a difference?
  • What are my treatment options?
    • Are there complications from the suggested medicines?
    • How will the stomach ulcer medicine interact with my current medicines?
  • Do I need to be hospitalized?
  • What emergency symptoms should I be aware of?
  • How do I know if the stomach ulcer is healing?
  • When is my follow-up appointment?
  • Do I need to see a specialist?

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