What causes Gastric ulcer?
Gastric ulcer in the stomach or duodenum is a common disease usually associated with pain in the upper part of the abdomen. Other symptoms may also be present (see below). Gastric ulcer is seen equally among men and women and it is estimated that 5% of all individuals will have a gastric ulcers at some point in life.
The cause is usually increased acid production, which occur for several reasons. Often it is a combination of alcohol, tobacco, coffee, stress and medication containing aspirin or similar drugs (“NSAIDs”) such as Kodimagnyl, Aspirin, Ibuprofen and Ipren. Drugs containing corticosteroids (steroids) can also cause gastric ulcers.
Finally, infection with the ulcer bacteria Helicobacter Pylori can also cause gastric ulcers. It is estimated that 50% of the world population have Helicobacter Pylori in the stomach. In developed countries like Denmark the likelihood is less, approx. 25%.
Usually the cause of gastric ulcer is a combination of the above factors.
What are the symptoms of gastric ulcers?
Pain located in the upper part of the abdomen. Acid burning sensation in the stomach when hungry – may ease after eating. Acid reflux. Bleeding, that can appear in several ways. Vomit containing blood. If the blood is clotted, it may look like coffee grounds. At severe bleeding you can have black and very smelling stools due to digested blood.
How am I examined for gastric ulcer?
Gastric ulcer (and duodenal ulcer) is diagnosed by a gastroscopy, which is an examination through the mouth into the stomach with a steerable tube mounted with a camera (a gastroscope).
Should the effects of treatment be monitored?
Yes, a gastric ulcer in the stomach must be followed until healing with monthly endoscopy.
An ulcer in the duodenum must not necessarily be followed with endoscopy, but the effect of antibiotic treatment for gastric ulcers bacteria, must be controlled with a Helicobacter breath test 4 weeks after the antibiotic treatment is completed.
What complications can arise for gastric ulcer?
The most severe complication is excessive bleeding which in rare cases can be life threatening. Vomit and stools containing blood or blackened stools requires examination immediately. Hospitalization and acute examination and treatment are required.
Another serious complication of gastric ulcer is perforation of the stomach or duodenum. Perforation results in urgent onset of severe abdominal pain. In these cases you undergo immediate evaluation by a doctor. Hospitalization and emergency surgery is necessary.
Smaller bleedings for a prolonged period can cause anemia.