What is a gastric ulcer?

Gastric ulcer, also known as peptic ulcer, is a localized area of erosion in the stomach lining, resulting in abdominal pain, possible bleeding, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. The most common cause of gastric ulcer is a stomach infection associated with the Helicobacter pylori (H pylori) bacteria. The spread of H pylori among humans is not completely understood; it may spread through contaminated food and water. Many people become infected with H pylori at a young age, but symptoms most commonly occur in adulthood.

In some people, the H pylori bacteria cause an infection in the lining of the stomach, which may lead to gastric ulcers. Damage to the stomach lining from stomach acid increases the likelihood that H pylori infection will result in a gastric ulcer. Other risk factors for gastric ulcer include alcohol use, tobacco use, and prolonged use of medications such nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Severe illness has also been associated with developing a gastric ulcer.

The signs and symptoms of gastric ulcer can be constant or sporadic, and the disease course varies among individuals. If H pylori is the cause, the symptoms will remain as long as the infection is untreated. Some people with gastric ulcers have no symptoms at all, while others may have burning pain, severe nausea, and vomiting.

In the case of H pylori-related gastric ulcers, the infection can be treated successfully with antibiotics. For gastric ulcer not related to H pylori, antacids or other medications are an effective treatment. You can reduce your risk of H pylori bacteria infection by following commonsense hygiene practices such as washing your hands with soap and water prior to preparing food and after handling dirty diapers or using the bathroom.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, bloody or black tarry stools, or bloody or black vomit.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for gastric ulcer but mild symptoms recur or are persistent.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of a gastric ulcer?

Gastric ulcer causes inflammation and damage to the stomach lining that may result in a number of symptoms. The symptoms can vary in intensity among individuals.

Common symptoms of a gastric ulcer

You may experience gastric ulcer symptoms daily or just once in a while. At times any of these common symptoms can be severe:

CAUSES

What causes a gastric ulcer?

Other causes of gastric ulcer include agents that can cause inflammation of the stomach lining, including alcohol, tobacco, and medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Severe illness and radiation therapy have also been associated with gastric ulcers.

What are the risk factors for a gastric ulcer?

A number of factors increase the risk of devel... Read more about gastric ulcercauses

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 2, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System


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