Have you ever suffered from an ulcer? Just lay off the spicy food until you feel better, right? Did you know that a stomach ulcer can kill you? Do I have your attention, yet?
Stomach ulcers (also known as peptic ulcers) originate in the lining of the stomach and are caused (in 90% of cases) by a bacteria known as H pylori. Stomach ulcers are like small blisters that you might get on your lips in the winter and usually they heal themselves. But stomach ulcers are no joke--they can kill you if not diagnosed and treated.
How can a stomach ulcer kill me?
When a stomach ulcer forms, you have a blister in the inner lining of your stomach. Without treatment, the ulcer can become aggravated by acidic substances, like spicy foods, cigarettes and alcohol. If the ulcer deepens, you face the risk that it will perforate the wall of the stomach and that is a serious problem.
When a stomach ulcer perforates the stomach wall, the gastric contents (food and fluids) will pass through the hole in your stomach into your abdominal cavity. Food and fluids were not meant to flow into your abdominal cavity and when this happens, you will become severely sick with the worst pain you can imagine called peritonitis.
Peritonitis is the inflammation of the peritoneum, and it occurs within 24-48 hours of the stomach perforation. You now have a medical emergency on your hands. The acidic substances in your abdominal cavity can destroy the tissues in your peritoneum (this is called necrosis) and when that occurs, infection will set into your bloodstream known as sepsis. At this point, you are in real trouble of dying from a peptic ulcer.
What are the symptoms of a stomach ulcer?
The primary symptom of a peptic ulcer is epigastric pain. Epigastric refers the upper abdomen (above your belly button). Upper abdominal pain is a classic symptom that can be associated with a peptic ulcer. The epigastric pain will generally worsen as your stomach ulcer gets deeper and penetrates through the stomach wall.
You will often have difficulty sleeping and doing just about any physical activities with stomach ulcers. Vomiting, nausea and loss of weight are common side effects of stomach ulcers.
What you can do to prevent a stomach ulcer
If you suspect you have a stomach ulcer, the most definitive test is upper endoscopy. This is a simple 5-minute procedure done in the office setting by a gastroenterologist where he/she passes a long tube down your throat to look directly into your stomach and first part of your small intestine. The gastroenterologist can see the inner lining of your stomach during an upper endoscopy and thus, he will be able to see your ulcer. A CT scan of the abdomen is much less worthwhile for purposes of diagnosing a stomach ulcer. Rarely will a peptic ulcer be revealed by a CT scan of the abdomen.
If you suspect that you have a stomach ulcer, don't let your guard down--this can be serious! The doctor of choice for treating a peptic ulcer is a gastroenterologist, who specializes in treating disorders of the gastrointestinal tract (esophagus, stomach, small and large intestine, and the rectum). Only a gastroenterologist can perform an upper endoscopy, but your primary care physician can make the order for upper endoscopy.
Once you confirm that you have a peptic ulcer, the next step is treatment. Because ulcers are caused by the H pylori bacteria, you should take an antibiotics over the course of 7-10 days and begin antacid medications. Giving the stomach ulcer time to heal is important, so you want to stay away from acidic foods, alcohol and smoking. With time and the right treatment, your stomach ulcer will heal.
What you can do if you have questions
If you want more information, or have any questions, I welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882. You can always request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website, www.protectingpatientrights.com. Thank you for taking the time to read this article.