The term gastric ulcer refers more to the location of an ulcer than to the type. These ulcers are a subgroup of peptic ulcers and gastric describes the area in which they occur: the stomach. Essentially they are holes forming in the stomach lining that can cause great discomfort and require treatment.
The main symptoms of the gastric ulcer may vary based on its severity, and people may sometimes have more than one ulceration. If the ulcer is in the stomach region, people might have pain there, near the belly button, which flares and goes away. Pain might be worse at night or aggravated by consuming acidic foods. More significant symptoms may develop over time, including the appearance of bloody stools or vomit that may contain blood, changes in eating patterns, or loss of significant amounts of weight that are not due to dieting.
After many years of research, medical scientists abandoned their formerly held belief that most ulcers resulted from stress or diet. Instead the gastric ulcer and all other ulcerative types that fall into the peptic grouping are most likely to be caused by bacterial infection, with the bacteria Helicobacter pylori or H. pylori. This means that typical treatment for the gastric ulcer has changed dramatically over time.
Most people who head to the doctor with symptoms of a gastric ulcer can expect to have some testing to confirm its presence. This could include blood or breath testing to look for the H. pylori bacteria. More extensive tests such as special x-rays of the gastrointestinal system or endoscopy, which can take a sample of tissue near the ulcer to rule out other conditions, might be required.
When exams confirm presence of a gastric ulcer, people are normally treated with antibiotics. Even though diet and stress reduction are now not though ineffective treatment alone, there still may be recommendations along these lines. For instance, eating a lower acid diet may help reduce discomfort, while the antibiotics help wipe out infection. People are also advised to avoid alcohol consumption and smoking, since these may exacerbate the ulcer or make it hard for it to heal.
It can take a few months for treatment to work fully and for antibiotics to completely rid the body of H. pylori. Other treatments that might help with discomfort and accelerate healing include things like acid reducing medications. Should a gastric ulcer fail to heal, doctors might investigate other possible causes, including different types of infection or presence of cancer. If endoscopy has been performed during initial examination, cancer is often ruled out early.