Stomach Ulcer

Overview

Under normal circumstances, acid is produced in the stomach to aid digestion. The stomach also has several mechanisms to protect its lining against the highly corrosive acid. When there is an imbalance between acid production and the protective mechanisms, ulcers can form.

Symptoms

Abdominal pain
Indigestion
Vomiting of either fresh blood or black material (partially digested blood)
Passing of black, sticky stools
Sudden, severe generalised abdominal pain

When to Seek Treatment

Black, tarry stools
Recent unexplained weight loss
Symptoms of anaemia: lethargy, shortness of breath, palpitations, chest pain, or dizziness
Recurrent burning pain in the upper abdomen.

Diagnosis

Assessment for peptic ulcer disease may include performing a gastroscopy to visualise the lining of the stomach and duodenum. If an ulcer is present, a biopsy of the ulcer can be taken to check for the presence of cancer cells.

A special test can also be performed on a small biopsy of the stomach lining to check for the presence of Helicobacter pylori infection.

A urea breath test can be done to rule out Helicobacter pylori infection.

Treatment

The doctor will prescribe medication to either reduce acid secretion or to eradicate the Helicobacter pylori infection.

Surgery is required when complicated peptic ulcers do not heal, when uncontrolled bleeding occurs, or when ulcers prevent food from entering into the small intestine.

Causes

Helicobacter pylori infection

Drugs like aspirin and certain pain medications like Ponstan, Synflex, Indocid, etc.

Risk Factors

Severe physiological stress such as severe injury or infection

Chronic smoking

Alcohol, especially binge drinking

Consult Our Doctor

Dr Lim Khong Hee
General Surgeon

MBBS (Singapore), M.Med (Surgery), FRCS (Edin), FRCSEd (Gen), FAMS (Surgery)

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