Normally, the lining of your stomach is coated with a protective mucus. However, if this mucus is damaged, the digestive acids in your stomach can attack the lining and an ulcer can develop.
It’s estimated that one in 10 people will develop a stomach ulcer at some point, with men being more susceptible. A stomach ulcer can occur at any age but your risk is higher if you’re over 60.
Some stomach ulcers are painless and trigger few, if any, symptoms. However, others cause stomach pain and indigestion. In rare cases, complications may develop which can be serious.
Most stomach ulcers can be cured with medical treatment – often within two months of diagnosis.
Burning abdominal pain is the most common stomach ulcer symptom but you may also have other signs of a stomach ulcer. These include:
Occasionally, potentially life-threatening stomach ulcer complications can develop, including bleeding, perforation of the stomach lining and gastric obstruction. Get immediate medical advice if you’re:
If you regularly have stomach ulcer symptoms, make an appointment with your GP, who may refer you to a consultant. If your GP or consultant suspects you have a stomach ulcer, they’ll arrange a range of tests, which may include:
There are two main reasons for the stomach lining’s protective mucus being damaged, allowing stomach ulcers to form. These are:
In rare cases, viral infections and conditions such as Crohn’s disease can trigger stomach ulcers.
Over-the counter antacid medication will provide instant, short-term relief from many symptoms, including stomach ulcer pain. Lifestyle changes can also help. Try:
Treating the cause of your stomach ulcer is the best course of action.
If you take NSAIDS, your doctor may review your medication and prescribe alternative pain relief to allow your stomach ulcer to heal.
Your doctor may also prescribe acid-suppressing medication, such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) or antacids.
If you’re diagnosed with a H. Pylori infection, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics and acid-suppressing medication to help your stomach ulcer heal.