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Stress Ulcer Symptoms You Need to Watch Out for

Written By HealthKart

Stress Ulcer Symptoms
What is a Stress Ulcer
Difference Between Stress Ulcer and Peptic Ulcer
Stress Ulcer Causes
Stress Ulcer Symptoms
Stress Ulcer Prophylaxis
Stress Ulcer Diagnosis
Stress Ulcer Treatment
Lifestyle Changes to Treat Stress Ulcers
Effective Home Remedies to Cut Stomach Ulcer Pain
Conclusion

Ulcers are sores marked by superficial eruptions or erosions on the inner lining of the digestive system. Mouth, oesophagus, stomach, or any other organ of the digestive system; sores can affect tissues of any organ involved in digestion. Ulcers are often caused due to drug interactions or infections that weaken the stomach lining. But chronically elevated stress levels are equally dreadful. Read through to learn more about stress ulcer symptoms and how to treat them. Also learn how stress induced ulcer are different from other gastric ulcers.

What is a Stress Ulcer?

As the name suggests, a stress ulcer is a stress induced ulcer. It emerges as a sore or crater in the upper gastrointestinal tract. This leads to irritation and inflammation in the gastrointestinal lining, which causes pain with a persistent feeling of burning. Stress ulcers also increase the risk of infection. The damage caused by a stress ulcer can range from minor irritation to severe bleeding.

Difference Between Stress Ulcer and Peptic Ulcer

A stress ulcer is different from a peptic ulcer, also known as a stomach ulcer. Peptic ulcers can be of two types – gastric ulcers and duodenal ulcers. Peptic ulcers found on the lining of the stomach are known as gastric ulcers, whereas peptic ulcers in the upper area of the small intestine are called duodenal ulcers. 

Drug interactions or infections that weaken the stomach lining are the primary cause of peptic ulcers. While peptic ulcers are not caused by stress, the prognosis of peptic ulcers worsens with stress.

Stress Ulcer Causes

Stress ulcers are typically caused due to physical stress and physiological stress. Some of the common stress ulcer causes include:

  1. Severe and debilitating long-term medical ailment
  2. Brain trauma
  3. Trauma that affects the body 
  4. Surgical procedure
  5. Severe burn injury
  6. Injury to the central nervous system
  7. Viral infection
  8. Oblivious biting of the lip or inner cheek lining
  9. Hormonal changes
  10. Acidic foods
  11. Certain medical conditions
  12. Stomach infection caused by Helicobacter pylori (H. Pylori) bacteria
  13. Prolonged and excessive use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.
  14. Chronic stress
  15. Depression
  16. Other mental illnesses that trigger brain-gut interaction

Stress Ulcer Symptoms

Stress ulcer symptoms cover an entire continuum. From no symptoms at all to severe bleeding and life-threatening complications, the stress ulcer symptoms include:

Early Signs of Stress Ulcer: 

  1. Loss of appetite
  2. Abdominal pain
  3. Pain in the upper part of the stomach
  4. Abdominal pain that can get better or worse after eating
  5. Persistent feeling of being bloated or unusually full
  6. The feeling of nausea or vomiting
  7. Indigestion
  8. Acid reflux
  9. Shortness of breath and pale skin

Severe Stomach Ulcer Symptoms:

  1. Bloody vomit or red vomit 
  2. Dark coloured vomit that resembles coffee grounds
  3. Visible blood in stools
  4. Extremely dark or black and tarry stools
  5. Feeling light-headed
  6. Feeling of fainting
  7. Chills and fever
  8. Severe abdominal pain

Stress Ulcer Prophylaxis

Patients who are considered to be at high risk for stress ulcers are:

  1. Suffering from coagulopathy, a bleeding disorder
  2. On mechanical ventilation for more than 48 hours
  3. Have suffered a severe head injury
  4. Have suffered a severe trauma
  5. Have over 30% BSA burns
  6. Suffering renal or hepatic failure
  7. Have a history of bleeding ulcers
  8. Underwent a major surgery
  9. Prolonged use of ulcerogenic pharmacologic agents
  10. Have suffered shock due to low blood pressure

Stress Ulcer Diagnosis

There are two ways to diagnose ulcers:

1. Gastroscopy

The presence of stomach ulcers is diagnosed through a medical procedure called Gastroscopy. The test helps to look inside the stomach directly and detect the presence of a stomach ulcer. To conduct the test, a thin, flexible tube, called the endoscope, which is fixed with a camera, is inserted through the throat into the stomach and the upper section of the small intestine. The images taken by the camera confirm the presence of an ulcer inside or on the stomach lining. A small tissue sample is also picked to test for H. pylori bacterial infection and cancers.

2. Barium Swallow

For people who cannot be tested through Gastroscopy may be required to undergo an alternative diagnosis method called the Barium Swallow. This test is also called an upper GI series of X-rays. To conduct the test, a barium drink is ingested before the test. As the chalky liquid passes through your digestive tract, the barium in the drink spreads around and helps pick up the presence of ulcers in a series of X-ray images. 

Stress Ulcer Treatment

Once the stress ulcer is confirmed through Gastroscopy or Barium Swallow, a treatment plan is formulated depending upon what caused it. Fortunately, most ulcers heal within a few months with proper medical treatment.

  1. For stomach ulcers caused by a Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacterial infection, a course of 2 antibiotics that are typically prescribed twice a day for seven days is recommended. The most commonly used antibiotics, in this case, are amoxicillin, clarithromycin, and metronidazole. After four weeks, a repeat test is done to check if the H. Pylori infection is still active. In case the infection persists, an antibiotic treatment plan with a different set of antibiotics is initiated.
  1. For stomach ulcers caused by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, a course of PPI (proton pump inhibitor) medication is recommended. The PPI drugs reduce the amount of acid produced by the stomach and this helps the ulcer heal naturally. The PPI medicines continue for over 4-8 weeks. Omeprazole, pantoprazole, and lansoprazole are the most commonly used PPI drugs. A class of drugs called antacids is used to relieve mild symptoms in the short term.

Lifestyle Changes to Treat Stress Ulcers

The mild symptoms of stress ulcers can be treated through lifestyle changes. These include:

  1. Do not use over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin and ibuprofen. These are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and therefore worsen the stomach irritation caused by the ulcer. The use of such drugs also delays the ulcer healing process. 
  2. Go low on iron supplements as they irritate the stomach lining and the ulcer. Go in for iron-rich foods instead.
  3. Manage stress through deep breathing and breathing exercises. High-stress levels will only worsen the condition of the ulcer. So, practice hobbies that help you relieve your stress.  
  4. Acids are produced in the stomach to aid digestion. But some foods stimulate acid production further. Spicy foods, citrus fruits, and fatty foods make things worse. So, avoid foods that irritate your stomach lining and symptoms.
  5. Do not smoke. Although nicotine and tobacco appear to be great stress-busters and help you feel relaxed immediately, the damage done to the body and mind is tremendous. Quit smoking to experience instant relief from ulcer pain symptoms.  
  6. Consume alcohol in moderation. Too much alcohol irritates the stomach lining, making the ulcers worse.

Effective Home Remedies to Cut Stomach Ulcer Pain

Stomach ulcers often cause abdominal pain. This is caused by the irritation or inflammation in the stomach lining. Taking over-the-counter pain reliever medications, especially the class of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can aggravate the pain further. A few home remedies can help provide effective relief from stomach ulcer pain. These are:

  1. Probiotics – Probiotics help restore the balance of good gut bacteria. These, in turn, help ward off the disease-causing microorganisms. Probiotics also aid in the faster healing of ulcers.
  2. Foods rich in Flavonoids – Flavonoids are compounds that occur naturally in fruits and vegetables. They have antioxidant properties that protect the stomach lining by increasing stomach mucus.
  3. Honey – Honey is known for its antibacterial properties. It has high amounts of polyphenols and other antioxidants, which help heal ulcers faster. Its sweet taste helps soothe ulcers.
  4. Turmeric – Curcumin, turmeric’s active ingredient, is known for its medicinal value. It is anti-inflammatory with antioxidant properties, which provide instant relief from stomach ulcer pain.
  5. Chamomile – A cup of chamomile tea can be a possible cure for intestinal spasms. Chamomile helps reduce inflammation and stomach ulcer pain and promotes ulcer healing.
  6. Garlic – Garlic helps combat infections. This prevents the growth of bacteria responsible for stomach ulcers. Its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties help speed up recovery from ulcers.
  7. Chilli Peppers – Capsaicin, an active ingredient in chilli peppers, helps reduce the production of stomach acids. Its consumption also enhances blood flow to the stomach lining. These attributes make it a perfect compound to help prevent and heal ulcers.
  8. Aloe Vera – Aloe Vera compounds help reduce the amount of stomach acid produced in the body. This confers a protective effect against stomach ulcers.

Conclusion

Stress ulcer symptoms are typically common in critically ill patients. The complications of stress ulcers can raise serious health issues, making them more dangerous than peptic ulcers. But they can be treated well with appropriate medication or home remedies.   

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