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eMed previously Babylon Health

Stomach Ulcers

Edited by Dr Claudia Pastides, 25th April 2019

A stomach ulcer, sometimes known as a gastric or peptic ulcer, is a common condition which can cause symptoms of indigestion. It is an open sore on the lining of the stomach, which can cause problems and complications if left untreated. A stomach ulcer can affect anyone of any age, including children, however they tend to occur more often in men than women.

With the right treatment, stomach ulcers and their symptoms will clear up quite quickly. To discuss your stomach problems with an online GP today, sign up  for 24/7 access to doctors.

Common symptoms of stomach ulcers

The pain caused by a stomach ulcer is often described as a burning sensation in the abdomen. Other symptoms include burning pain in the chest (heartburn) or feeling sick – you may have some symptoms without the others. Some stomach ulcers don’t cause pain and go unnoticed until a complication occurs, such as bleeding.

If you have a sharp, sudden pain in your tummy, dark sticky stools or notice blood in your vomit, this could be signs of a complication of a stomach ulcer and you need urgent medical treatment.

What causes a stomach ulcer?

A stomach ulcer is formed when stomach acid damages the lining of the stomach. This means that something is making the stomach lining more vulnerable than usual, breaking down the stomach’s natural defence against the acid it produces. When the lining becomes damaged, an ulcer forms.

There are two main known causes of stomach ulcers:

  • A bacterial infection (H. pylori)
  • NSAID medication (aspirin, ibuprofen)

Stomach ulcers are a side effect of certain medicines, so if you are taking NSAIDs at high doses or for long periods of time, this could be a cause of a stomach ulcer. Some lifestyle factors may also contribute to stomach ulcers, such as smoking and stress.

Diagnosis of stomach ulcer

If you have symptoms of indigestion, heartburn or acid reflux that are not improving with treatment or of no known cause, then your GP will send you to hospital to have a camera put down into the stomach (endosopy). This is how an ulcer is diagnosed.

Treatment for stomach ulcers

A doctor can prescribe medication to help your stomach ulcer heal faster, but it’s also vital to establish the underlying cause. If you are diagnosed with a bacterial infection, then antibiotics can treat the infection. A proton pump inhibitor (PIP) can speed up the healing process by reducing the amount of acid in the stomach.

Discuss your symptoms today with a GP and see if treatment for a stomach ulcer is required.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.