A gastric ulcer occurs when there has been a break in the protective lining of the stomach which leads to further erosion of both the lining of the stomach and the intestines. Such erosion will result in a raw, open and painful sore occurring in the stomach lining.
Gastric Ulcers are caused when there is an imbalance between the amount of stomach acid the body is secreting and an enzyme called Pepsin and the natural defenses of the stomach lining (known as mucosal).
There is a spiral shaped bacteria living in the acid environment of the stomach (Heliobacter Pylori Bacterium) which can also cause gastric ulcers. Whilst both obesity and smoking along with the excessive use of anti-inflammatory drugs (such as aspirin) will also increase the risk of someone developing gastric ulcers.
There are certain warning signs that you should look for to know if you have a gastric ulcer or not.
One of the primary symptoms felt by someone with a gastric ulcer is a gnawing or burning pain in the upper middle stomach or just below the breastbone which will last from 30 minutes to sometimes over 3 hours. Unfortunately a large number of people mistake this kind of pain for heartburn because it is so similar, whilst others just mistake it as hunger pains.
For some people the pain caused by a gastric ulcer will wake them up during the night and for others it may come on immediately after they have eaten or meal or it may occur some 2 to 3 hours later on. For some patients the pain caused by the ulcer can be relieved by food or milk, whilst others will avoid eating as they often associate the pain they feel with eating.
Although the pain of a duodenal ulcer can often be relieved by food, for those suffering from gastric ulcers the pain is usually increased after they have had food. For some patients they have found that a delay in eating will only cause the pain from a gastric ulcer to be more severe and certainly from research carried out it is more likely that these people are suffering a duodenal ulcer rather than a gastric one.
As previously mentioned along with the pain the other signs and symptoms of a gastric ulcer will include weight loss, nausea, vomiting, and appetite loss, pain relief after drinking milk, eating food or taking antacids, tiredness as well as the abdomen becoming bloated. However, if your ulcer begins to bleed you may notice that your stools have become tarry and foul smelling and you may also begin to vomit blood.
Yet there are some signs and symptoms which are relating to gastric ulcers that people sometimes confuse as heartburn instead, and these are indigestion or feeling hungry. But there are such signs and symptoms as the pain that may be felt after eating which make it easier to diagnose if some has a gastric ulcer or not.