A stomach ulcer, or peptic ulcer, is a sore that forms on the lining of the stomach or the area of the small intestine called the duodenum. An ulcer in the stomach lining is called a gastric ulcer, and one in the intestine is called duodenal ulcer. Symptoms include a burning pain in the stomach that usually happens when your stomach is empty and feels better after you eat. A few patients also experience nausea, weight loss, appetite changes and dark blood in the stools.
Bacteria named helicobacter pylori, commonly called H.pylori, are responsible for the majority of stomach ulcers. These cork-screw shaped bacteria live in the layer that covers the lining of the stomach and small intestine. When they get out of control, they inflame the area, causing a peptic ulcer. This common gastrointestinal infection can usually be diagnosed with a blood test. Medications to block and even stop the production of stomach acid are prescribed along with antibiotics to treat H.pylori. Some people have to continue taking the drugs to slow down acid production even after the antibiotic regimen is complete.
Using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) on a regular basis can also inflame the stomach and intestine. Naproxen sodium and ibuprofen, frequently used over-the-counter pain relievers, are NSAIDs. NSAIDs can stop the production of prostaglandins, substance in the body that protect the stomach lining. Taking NSAIDs with food can help protect the stomach from distress. Alka-Seltzer and Pepto-Bismol, two common antacids used for stomach problems, can actually make the ulcer worse. Osteoporosis prescription medications can also cause ulcers.
The nicotine in cigarette smoke can contribute to stomach ulcers. When you inhale, the nicotine increase not only the amount of acid in your stomach, but also the concentration of the acid. This acid can irritate and inflame the stomach, intestine and esophagus. Smoking during ulcer treatment will also slow down the progression of the treatment
Just like nicotine, alcohol can increase stomach acid and irritate the mucous lining. If you already have an ulcer, drinking alcohol will increase your symptoms and slow your treatment.
Age plays a role in stomach ulcers. Children and teenagers almost never suffer from ulcers. But as people get older and their lifestyle becomes more complex, often with drinking and smoking part of their lives, they are more likely to develop an ulcer. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, one in ten people in the United States will have at least one stomach ulcer during their life.