In patients who exhibit signs and symptoms (about 25% who have ulcers), the most common symptom is stomach pain that patients often describe as burning. Other common symptoms include belching, bloating, intolerance of fatty foods, nausea, and heartburn.
Less common, more severe symptoms include vomiting, bloody emesis, difficulty breathing, unintentional weight loss, changes in appetite, and feeling faint.
In addition to their annual physical examinations, patients should schedule an appointment if they experience any of the signs or symptoms of stomach ulcers.
The mucosal lining layer protects the lining of the stomach from damage caused by acid, but increased acid or decreased mucus can put the lining at risk of ulceration. Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection, long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and the use of certain medications can cause ulcers.
Patients who smoke, drink alcohol, experience long-term stress, or eat spicy foods frequently are at increased danger of developing ulcers.
Serious complications can occur including internal bleeding, peritonitis (infection in the abdominal cavity), and bowel obstruction.
Diagnostic tools that are often used to identify ulcers include:
First, any risk factors that can worsen ulcers should be managed. This may include quitting smoking, discontinuing use of NSAIDs, changing diet, managing stress, or limiting alcohol intake. Also, one or more of the following treatments may be recommended: