According to Nonprofitdictionary, a gastric ulcer or ulcus ventriculi is an inflammatory disease of the stomach and in particular of the gastric mucosa. Stomach ulcers are among the most common stomach diseases in Germany. Older people in particular are affected. The main causes are increased gastric acid formation and disturbed gastric movement or digestion.
What is a stomach ulcer?
In the case of a gastric ulcer or ulcus ventriculi, the mucous membranes in the stomach are inflamed. However, it is not a malignant ulcer, as is the case with stomach cancer, for example . In particular, the deeper layers of the stomach wall are damaged by inflammation.
Gastric ulcers mainly occur in the area of the small inner curve in the stomach, which is also known as the lesser curvature in medicine. In addition to inflammation of the gastric mucosa and irritable stomach, a stomach ulcer is one of the most common diseases of the stomach. However, the disease usually occurs in old age, ie between the ages of 50 and 70.
Most patients have stomach ulcers again and again, so that in these cases one can almost speak of a chronic inflammation of the stomach. The disease can be hereditary and is also likely to occur in old age in descendants of someone with peptic ulcer disease. A special form of this disease is the duodenal ulcer.
The causes of a gastric ulcer can be diverse. However, all causes have in common that the protective balance of the gastric mucosa in the stomach is disturbed. Above all, the gastric juices produced by the gastric mucosa are no longer produced to a normal extent. This leads to indigestion in the stomach. In particular, it is the highly corrosive gastric acids that can have an inflammatory effect on the gastric mucosa.
Roughly speaking, therefore, internal and external causes of a stomach ulcer can be found. Internal causes include: increased production of stomach acid, disturbances in stomach function during the digestive process, disturbances in certain proteins used to repair the stomach lining and stomach wall, Zollinger-Ellison syndrome and overactive parathyroid glands with an overproduction of calcium, which promotes strong stomach acid.
External factors are above all: Heavy alcohol consumption and smoking, the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, medications that heavily burden and attack the stomach, such as cortisone and probably the most common stress, mental stress and hasty eating.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
A stomach ulcer can cause a wide variety of symptoms. Typical is pain in the upper abdomen, which occurs mainly before or during food intake. There is also nausea and vomiting, often associated with heartburn and diarrhea. Patients usually react sensitively to certain foods that have previously been well tolerated.
The gastrointestinal complaints often lead to weight loss and thus cause deficiency symptoms. Stomach bleeding can occur as the disease progresses. The affected area is tight and painful, whereby the pain increases when touched and can radiate to the breastbone, lower abdomen and back. Many sufferers suffer from the characteristic pain after eating.
For others, the symptoms occur on an empty stomach, with the fasting pain usually occurring at night and being less intense. People with a stomach ulcer usually notice changes in the color and consistency of their stool. The excretions can be black in color and slimy, but they can also be watery and light in consistency.
A gastric ulcer is usually not visible externally. Only the changes in the stool and the sickly appearance that occurs as the disease progresses indicate a serious condition. In severe cases, a slight swelling can be noticed externally at the site of the gastric ulcer.
course of the disease
If a stomach ulcer is not treated medically, it can lead to life-threatening complications. Heavy bleeding in particular can lead to a perforation of the stomach wall. This circumstance must be avoided in any case in good time. People who are prone to stomach ulcers are particularly at risk.
The older the affected person is, the larger the ulcer is and the more frequently the patient develops stomach ulcers, the greater the chance of further complications. Further complications can be: reduction of the stomach wall, gastric narrowing and stomach cancer. The risk groups also include more men than women. People with kidney failure and cirrhosis of the liver are also more at risk.
Although it is always advisable to seek medical help for this condition, the ulcers heal on their own in about 40 percent of those affected. Modern medicine increases the probability to over 90 percent.
Various complications can arise from a stomach ulcer. In around a third of all patients, the ulcer is only discovered through its after-effects. One of the most common effects of gastric ulcers is bleeding, which can be acute or chronic.
It is not uncommon for the bleeding to result in coffee grounds-like vomiting, bloody vomiting or the occurrence of tarry stools. If an ulcer bleeds, it can even threaten the life of the patient. Therefore, in this case, an immediate emergency gastroscopy is required to stop the bleeding. The mortality rate from gastric bleeding is about ten percent.
Another dreaded complication of gastric ulcers is gastric perforation (ulcer perforation). About two to five percent of all patients suffer from this effect. Stomach ulcers caused by taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are particularly affected by perforation.
The reason for this is their often late diagnosis and treatment. The perforation of the stomach in turn brings with it the risk of inflammation of the peritoneum (peritonitis). Since this can assume life-threatening proportions, it must be treated quickly and surgically. Ulcer penetration occurs in some patients.
This means that the ulcer is invading an adjacent organ. The covered perforation primarily affects the pancreas, which can be attributed to its proximity to the stomach. Another complication is gastric narrowing. It occurs due to scarring from recurring stomach ulcers.
When should you go to the doctor?
Pain and swelling in the stomach area should be examined and treated by a doctor. Before taking any painkiller medication, it is advisable to consult a doctor so that no further complications arise. In case of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or an intestinal obstruction, a doctor is required. If there are changes in the complexion, a decrease in the level of performance or a general feeling of discomfort, a doctor should be consulted. Touch and pressure pain should be clarified by a doctor.
Feeling sick, looking pale and feeling weak are signs of an irregularity that should be treated. Heartburn, a decrease in body weight and deficiency symptoms are indications of an existing irregularity. A doctor’s visit is required for treatment to begin. Abnormalities when going to the toilet are further signs of an illness.
Discolorations or peculiarities of the smell indicate a disease. If the consistency of the stool changes, flatulence occurs or there is mucous excretion, a doctor should be consulted. If stomach problems occur even though you are on an empty stomach, this is considered unusual. In most cases, the person concerned wakes up from the night’s sleep due to the symptoms and suffers from insomnia. A doctor’s visit is recommended if problems occur several nights in a row.
Treatment & Therapy
First of all, a doctor should be consulted if there is a suspicion of a stomach ulcer. Depending on the diagnosed cause, individual treatment is then initiated. In addition, all food and medication, smoking and alcohol consumption should be stopped immediately.
It is also recommended not to eat high-fat foods and coffee. The doctor can prescribe appropriate medication to inhibit acid formation. The reduced gastric acid production that is initiated in this way protects the gastric mucous membranes of the stomach wall and relieves painful symptoms.
Typical medications prescribed for gastric ulcers include acid blockers, proton pump inhibitors (pantoprazole, omeprazole), histamine receptor blockers, and antacids.
For a better stomach movement and for better digestion, prokinetics come into question, which can provide relaxation, especially in the case of severely cramped stomachs. If the infection is caused by bacteria, the antibiotics clarithromycin, metronidazole, or amoxicillin are also given.
If the gastric ulcer does not heal despite treatment with the drugs listed above, surgery should be considered. In any case, gastric ulcer surgery is appropriate when complications such as gastric perforation, gastric cancer, bleeding or gastric narrowing occur.
Outlook & Forecast
If left untreated, a gastric ulcer can be expected to result in an increase in health impairments. In addition, the risk of suffering secondary diseases is increased. If a stomach ulcer develops into cancer, the chances of a cure are significantly reduced. If there is no medical care, the person concerned is at risk of premature death.
The prognosis is usually favorable if treatment is sought. Medication is administered and the ulcer is removed. Although the surgical procedure is associated with risks, there is still a good chance of recovery. In the long term, the cause of the gastric ulcer should be determined and eliminated.
In a state of emotional distress, a change in lifestyle is necessary. If the nutrition plan is not optimally designed, restructuring measures should also be initiated. Otherwise, the likelihood of the stomach ulcer forming again is greatly increased. If the illness recurs, the prognosis is also favorable with fast and rapid medical care.
Complications are to be expected in people with a weakened or not yet fully developed immune system. Therefore, the chances of recovery are reduced for them. A chronic course of the disease can develop, which is characterized by symptoms such as stomach pain, nausea, vomiting or irritation of the stomach.
As always, the best protection against a stomach ulcer is a healthy lifestyle. Above all, this includes sufficient exercise and sport in nature, a healthy and high-fiber diet, avoiding alcohol, smoking and too much coffee. You should also try to live a life without stress and mental stress, as far as this is possible.
After the successful treatment of a gastric ulcer, sensitive follow-up care is particularly important in order to prevent the disease from recurring. The quality of life of those affected is significantly restricted by the disease, so they should move gently through everyday life even after recovery. Excessive physical activity should be avoided, as this could only unnecessarily strain the sensitive abdominal area. Gentle food and a generally less stressful life are the best prerequisites for maintaining good health over the long term.
You can do that yourself
Once a stomach ulcer has been diagnosed, there are a few things people can do to relieve the symptoms and speed up recovery. The doctor will first recommend some dietary measures. Examples of suitable foods include whole grains, brown rice, steamed vegetables, fruit, and potatoes. On the other hand, high-fat foods (e.g. fried foods, sweets and convenience foods) as well as coffee and alcohol should be avoided. Nicotine and other stimulants are also on the black list for gastric ulcers and may only be taken after consulting a doctor.
Sport and exercise in nature are also recommended for people with gastric ulcers. A healthy lifestyle has a positive effect on gastric ulcers and reliably prevents the development of further ulcers.
Before doing so, however, the cause of the disease should be determined and treated in a targeted manner. If the stomach ulcer is caused by stress or another mental illness, it is advisable to talk to a therapist. Changing jobs or moving to a new apartment often helps. The individual causes of the disease can often be determined with the help of a complaints diary and then tackled together with the doctor or psychologist.