Stomach Ulcer Overview
The stomach is located in the abdomen below the ribs on the left side. Food that you consume passes through the esophagus, a sphincter (small muscle ring) and into the stomach. Gastric juices containing stomach acid and enzymes mix together with food in the stomach. Your stomach eventually digests the food naturally, allowing it to pass through the second sphincter into the duodenum (the first portion of small intestine).
Stomach acid, which helps digest food and eliminate bacteria, is prone to be destructive. However, the cellular tissue on the inside lining of the stomach and duodenum generate the layer of mucus to protect the stomach lining and duodenum. An ulcer might occur in the stomach due to imbalance between stomach acid and the layer of mucus. This imbalance enables the stomach acid to injure the stomach lining or duodenum.
Peptic ulcer indicates an ulcer that happens in the stomach or in the duodenum. An ulcer might be in the stomach, known as stomach ulcer, or gastric ulcer. Stomach ulcer, a type of peptic ulcer, is an open sore on the mucosa (the stomach lining).
Symptoms of stomach ulcers include:
- Vomiting or nausea
- Abdominal pain below the ribcage
- Loss of appetite
- Unexpected weight loss
Helicobacter Pylori Infection
The most common cause of stomach ulcer symptoms is the corkscrew-shaped bacterium _Helicobacter pylori (_H. pylori) which inflames and irritates the mucosa. The inflammation may lessen the layer of mucus that protects the stomach from the stomach acid leading to an ulcer.
Once the bacterial infection occurs in the upper portion of the stomach, the infection generates even more stomach acid and eventually causes an ulcer. The transmission of the bacteria is still unknown, but is believed to be due to sharing water or food. In the United States, one in five persons below 30 years old and half the people above 60 years old can contract H. pylori.
Long-term use of a type of medication known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may contribute to stomach ulcers as well. They include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and ketoprofen (Actron, Orudis KT). Those medications are both prescribed and over-the-counter drugs widely available to anyone.
If you take NSAIDs for a long period of time, they can injure the stomach lining and result in a stomach ulcer. Likewise, NSAIDs prevent an enzyme called cyclooxygenase from producing prostaglandins, which maintain your mucosa from detrimental effect of stomach acid. Because of this, stomach acid erodes the mucosa and leads to an ulcer. It is recommended that you consult your doctor to determine the best medications for you to take.
Other Risk Factors
Several risk factors that may aggravate an ulcer in the stomach include:
Excessive alcohol intake
Alcohol intake may erode the stomach lining (mucosa), boosting the amount of stomach acid. It increases the possibility of having an ulcer.
Nicotine in a cigar or in a cigarette can increase the amount of stomach acid. In addition, smoking might decelerate the healing process in treating an ulcer.
Physical and emotional stress
Either physical or emotional stress might contribute to an ulcer in the stomach. In addition, stress can exacerbate stomach ulcer symptoms and eventually delay the healing process.
Betterhealth.vic.gov.au: Stomach Ulcer - https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Stomach_ulcer
MayoClinic.com: Peptic Ulcer - https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/peptic-ulcer/DS00242
Familydoctor.org: Ulcers: What You Can Do to Heal Your Ulcer - https://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/common/digestive/disorders/186.html
Patient.co.uk: Stomach (Gastric) Ulcer - https://www.patient.co.uk/health/Stomach-%28Gastric%29-Ulcer.htm
Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.