Gastric Ulcer Complications

Gastric Ulcer Complications

Overview

Ulcers are painful sores or holes on the mucosa (inner lining) of the stomach, areas of the small intestine or in the lower end of the oesophagus due to various causes like bacterial infection, smoking, alcohol consumption, intake of drugs and harsh substances. Barring neonatal gastric ulcers, Gastric ulcers are uncommon in young children; whereas the chances of relapse are high in elderly patients.

Signs and symptoms

Symptoms may vary from mild to severe. Common symptoms include burning sensations in the stomach or sharp pain in the upper abdomen (that gets temporarily eased with the intake of antacids), nausea, feeling bloated, blood in the vomit, fainting, dark blood in the stools, stomach pain between meals and appetite changes.

Causes and risk factors

When there is excess acid production in the stomach, it depletes the protective mucous layer in the stomach which triggers the occurrence of gastric sores. Helicobacter pylori bacteria (H. Pylori) which is found in the mucous layer of the stomach inner walls, causes inflammation, at times leading to ulcers. The bacteria enters the body through food, water or when in close contact with infected persons. Factors that can worsen the condition of the ulcer are smoking, drinking alcohol, consuming spicy foods and leading a stressful life.

Complications

If left untreated, gastric ulcers can cause deep perforations in the stomach walls or intestines, and increase the risk to the abdominal cavity (peritonitis). Also, the obstruction in the passage of food through the digestive tract can cause bloating and fullness leading to weight loss. In certain cases, severe ulcers that do not receive medical care can lead to internal bleeding and gastric cancer.

Diagnosis

Upper GI imaging using barium swallow and CT gastroscopy are used to locate ulcers. Based on the medical history of the patient, initial tests are done for H. Pylori bacterium through blood, breath or stool test. Endoscopic procedures are also adopted in elderly patients. A biopsy is also used to diagnose ulcers.

Surgery

Resection of gastric ulcers is essential. Critical ulcer surgery as vagotomy pyloroplasty and proximal gastric vagotomy based on the condition of the patient is often suggested. In cases of recurrent ulceration, tracking the actual cause is a pre-requisite. During cases of excessive bleeding, total gastrectomy is advised.

Prevention

Controlling stress and mental strain by adopting healthy habits will have a positive impact on health. Reducing the use of painkillers, smoking and alcohol intake will reduce the chances of ulcers. Maintaining a healthy diet, physical hygiene and eating cooked food will help in avoiding H. Pylori bacterium.

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