Gastric ulcers (A.K.A. stomach ulcers) are open sores that develop on the lining of the stomach. They are part of a category of ulcers known as peptic ulcers, which also include duodenal ulcers that occur in the first part of the small intestine.
Gastric ulcers are usually caused by an imbalance between the digestive acid produced by the stomach and gastric mucus, a gel-like substance that coats the interior surfaces of the stomach and acts as a protective barrier to prevent acid from damaging the stomach lining.
This imbalance may result from factors such as infection by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), long-term use of certain medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and, less commonly, factors like excessive drinking or Zollinger-Ellison syndrome.
About 1 to 6% of the population of the U.S. is thought to have a gastric ulcer.
Why Hoag for Gastric Ulcer Evaluation and Treatment?
Have a gnawing, burning sensation in your stomach that you just won’t go away? You may have a gastric ulcer… or something more serious. When you need the right answers fast, trust the Hoag Digestive Health Institute to help you heal.
Hoag’s comprehensive, fully-integrated Foregut Program is Orange County’s recognized leader when it comes to the diagnosis and treatment of serious or recurring conditions of the esophagus and stomach. At Hoag, our program offers a patient-centered approach, drawing on the latest advancements in techniques and technology to help patients find answers other programs might miss and access treatment options you just can’t get anywhere else. The result: better outcomes, and fuller recoveries.
Need treatment for a stomach ulcer in Orange County, or have symptoms that have you worried? You don’t have to hurt. Not when Hoag is here for you every step of the way.
Symptoms and Causes of Gastric Ulcer
Some people who have gastric ulcers are asymptomatic, meaning they don’t have any symptoms at all. Most people, however, will have symptoms, which may range from mild to severe:
- A gnawing or burning pain in the middle or upper abdomen between meals or at night
- Feeling bloated or uncomfortably full, even if you’ve only eaten a little
- Nausea or vomiting
In severe cases, gastric ulcers can cause bleeding in the stomach, which may result in more serious complications. These may include:
- Black or tarry stools, or visible blood in your bowel movements
- Visible blood in your vomit, or vomiting what looks like coffee grounds (digested blood)
- Sharp or severe stomach pain that doesn’t go away, or lasts for a long time
- Fainting or feeling dizzy
- Rapid pulse
Risk Factors for Gastric Ulcer
Certain conditions and lifestyle choices can increase your risk of developing a gastric ulcer. Choices and conditions that can potentially increase your risk of gastric ulcer include: :
- Previous history of gastric ulcers or stomach surgery
- Having certain conditions, including Crohn’s disease, cirrhosis of the liver and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Long-term use of NSAIDs, including ibuprofen and aspirin, which can weaken the stomach’s protective mucous layer and make it more susceptible to gastric ulcers.
- H. pylori infection, a common bacterial infection which can cause inflammation and damage to the stomach lining, which may lead to an ulcer.
- Smoking, which can increase both the risk of ulcers and infection with H. pylori bacteria.
- Taking certain medications: Including corticosteroids, medicines to treat low bone mass and some antidepressants, especially when taken in combination with NSAIDs
- Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, a rare condition that leads to increased stomach acid production, increasing the risk of ulcers.
Diagnosis and Tests for Gastric Ulcer
If you visit the doctor with symptoms that suggest you may have a gastric ulcer, your doctor will likely ask you about your symptoms and your medical history before conducting a thorough physical exam.
Depending on the outcome of that initial exam, your doctor may order certain tests to fully diagnose or rule out gastric ulcer. These tests may include:
- Upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy, in which doctors use a flexible tube with a light and a camera at the tip to look inside your stomach and/or collect tissue samples for biopsy. Explore Hoag’s Orange County endoscopy centers near you
- Barium Swallow X-Ray, in which you will be asked to swallow a substance called barium, which causes the structures of the esophagus and stomach to show up better on X-rays. This allows doctors to examine images more thoroughly for a gastric ulcer
- Tests for H. pylori infection, in which your doctor may test your breath or stool for the presence of this bacteria, which causes most gastric ulcers
Advanced Diagnosis of Conditions of the Esophagus & Stomach at Hoag
As Orange County’s highest-volume treatment center and long-time leader in the accurate diagnosis and treatment of conditions involving the stomach and esophagus, the Hoag Digestive Health Institute is here for those facing serious conditions involving these crucial digestive organs, including chronic gastritis, gastric ulcer and other serious conditions.
At Hoag, advanced procedures used to diagnose or treat conditions involving the stomach and esophagus include:
- Abdominal Ultrasound
- Barium Swallow X-ray
- Capsule Studies
- Esophageal Bravo pH Monitoring
- Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD)
- Endoscopic Ultrasound (EUS)
- Esophageal Manometry (EM)
- Gastric Emptying Test (GET)
- Video Esophagram
Management and Treatment for Gastric Ulcer
In most cases, gastric ulcers can be treated successfully, though your treatment path may depend on factors like your age, the cause of the ulcer, your overall health and more. The treatment options your doctor might recommend after a gastric ulcer diagnosis may include:
- Taking antibiotics to kill the H. pylori infection
- Certain drugs that can reduce the amount of acid produced by your stomach, including proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) or histamine receptor blockers
- Stopping or reducing your use of NSAIDs or using alternative pain medications
- Reducing or eliminating your alcohol consumption
- Stopping smoking
In some cases, surgery might be necessary, particularly for stomach ulcers that return after initial treatment, don’t respond to treatment or which continue to bleed or cause other bothersome complications.
Advanced Treatment Options for Stomach and Esophageal Issues at Hoag
At Hoag, we’re committed to finding and using the latest and most advanced treatment options for conditions involving the esophagus and stomach. At Hoag, advanced options for treatment include:
- Enterra Therapy, which is an implantable device to control chronic nausea and vomiting often associated with gastroparesis – a condition in which the stomach cannot empty itself of food normally
- Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA), which is a treatment that uses high-frequency electrical currents to create a small area of heat that destroys the cancer cells.
- LINX Reflux Management System, which is an implantable, FDA-approved device that treats GERD symptoms and stops reflux. Hoag is one of only three centers in California to offer this life-changing technology.
- Nissen Fundoplication, which is a surgery to reinforce and strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter
- Toupet Fundoplication: Anti-Reflux Surgery, which a type of anti-reflux surgery that is most often used in cases where the patient has difficulty swallowing in addition to traditional reflux symptoms.
- Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication (TIF), which is a minimally invasive, non-surgical procedure that corrects a weakened esophageal sphincter, which causes chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The TIF procedure is performed entirely within the stomach, using an endoscope passed down the throat, and requires no incisions.
Prevention of Gastric Ulcers
While there is no known way to prevent yourself from developing gastric ulcers, there are a few steps you can take that might reduce your risk. These may include:
- Take NSAID pain relievers only as directed, and only for short periods of time
- Quit smoking
- Avoid H. pylori infection or transmission by washing your hands before meals and/or preparing food
- Eat more cruciferous vegetables, including cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli
- Get screened for infection with the H. pylori bacteria
- Avoid the abuse of alcohol, or seek treatment for alcoholism
Treatment for Alcoholism at Hoag
For those with alcohol addiction that may be contributing to cirrhosis or liver disease, Hoag is here for you. The longest-standing addiction treatment option in Orange County, Hoag Addiction Treatment Centers is an accredited program within the Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute that offers help, hope and healing for people and families facing addiction to alcohol and other drugs. For more information, visit this link, or call (949)764-6883.