An ulcer is a painful sore in the stomach lining or at the opening of the small intestine.
Ulcers happen because of an imbalance in digestive fluids.
Using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, excessive acid production, or an infection caused by Helicobacter pylori can all be responsible for the development of ulcers.
An ulcer can cause a great deal of pain but sometimes will manifest no symptoms. When an ulcer goes untreated, the acid can eat into the stomach wall, causing perforation and bleeding.
Although many ulcers will often heal on their own, sometimes serious health issues will result if medical treatment isn’t sought when necessary. Here are ten warning signs indicative of an ulcer, including the following:
1. Abdominal Pain
Feeling bloated or experiencing pain or a burning sensation in the middle or upper part of the stomach after meals or at night.
Due to the imbalance of digestive fluids in the stomach, mild to severe nausea can occur at any time–more intensely in the morning on an empty stomach.
Someone with an ulcer can experience horrible indigestion and gastrointestinal pain, which can cause hiccups and burping after meals.
4. Flu-like Symptoms
Most people with an ulcer will have flu-like symptoms such as fever, nausea, exhaustion, and general malaise that don’t dissipate over the course of a few days.
5. Abdominal Heaviness
It is very common for a person with an ulcer to develop a feeling of fullness or heaviness in the stomach, similar to having consumed a great deal of fluid.
6. Unexplainable Hunger
It is normal for someone with an ulcer to feel extremely hungry only a couple of hours after consuming a full meal. The feelings are not actually hunger pangs, but rather pain from the ulcer, which is caused by an increase in digestive fluids.
7. Loss of Appetite
Many people experience appetite loss due to sudden and intense stomach pains.
8. Unexplained or Sudden Weight Loss
With appetite loss that stems from ulcers, it is common to lose weight. This becomes even more likely if the ulcer causes vomiting after meals.
9. Vomiting Blood
A perforated ulcer can lead to bloody vomit. If this happens, the ulcer has advanced and immediate medical attention is indicated.
10. Discoloration of Stool
Ulcers can cause discolored stools that appear darker, pasty, or bloody.
What happens if an ulcer remains untreated?
According to the Mayo Clinic, an untreated ulcer can lead to serious health complications. An untreated ulcer can cause internal bleeding that may become so severe it requires hospitalization or a blood transfusion. Ulcers can eat a hole through the stomach wall or small intestine, leading to a serious infection called peritonitis. Because ulcers can produce scar tissue, blockages can form that do not allow food to pass through the digestive tract easily, causing vomiting and weight loss.
Treating ulcers is often successful, allowing them to heal. If symptoms are severe and continue in spite of treatment, however, your healthcare provider may recommend testing to rule out any other underlying conditions. If you suspect you are suffering from an ulcer and the symptoms are causing you great discomfort, it is important to visit your doctor to find treatment options and lifestyle modifications to manage it.