Stomach ulcer, as the name suggests, is a peptic ulcer (open sore) that develops in the stomach lining. Without prompt treatment, it may cause complications which some could be very dangerous (fatal). One of them is a burst ulcer, an emergency gastrointestinal condition since it can cause serious internal bleeding.
How do you get a burst ulcer?
Stomach ulcer is not always painful. It may not cause any symptoms if it’s mild and small, and therefore you’re probably unaware that you have the disease. Sometimes it’s painless until it becomes advanced and causes significant discomforts.
Abdominal pain is the most common symptom of the disease. The pain usually gets worse with empty stomach (when your stomach acid is high) and will relieve for a while when you take antacids. Other symptoms may include heartburn, bloating, feeling of fullness, belching, and indigestion.
Early diagnosis can help treat the disease more effectively, so its complications are less likely to occur. The diagnosis usually involves a number of procedures and tests such as physical examination, laboratory tests to look for H-pylori infection, and endoscopy (if necessary).
A burst ulcer is more likely to occur if an ulcer develops at the site of a blood vessel. And when it carves into a blood vessel in the stomach, this triggers bleeding which may occur rapidly (acute) or slowly (long-term bleeding). This bleeding could be fatal (life-threatening) without immediate medical or surgical intervention.
If the bleeding occurs slowly, you may have some of the following signs and symptoms:
- Noticeable heart-beats (heart palpitations).
- Shortness of breath (breathlessness).
- Chronic internal bleeding can cause anemia – causing malaise, fatigue, chest pain, lightheadedness, headache, yellowish pale skin, cold hands and feet.
And if causes severe acute bleeding, the symptoms are as follows:
- Blood from bleeding can travel from the affected area to the bowel. As a result, you may pass sticky, black stools (tar-like) during bowel movement.
- Vomiting blood. It may occur with the consistency of coffee grounds.
Seek medical attention without delay if you have these symptoms! Immediate treatment is necessary for both types of ulcer-related bleeding. Don’t wait until it’s too late!
The good news, today we have gotten much better at treating stomach ulcer. With prompt treatment, it will go away without leaving serious problems (see also how long it takes to heal).
Internal bleeding caused by ruptured ulcer is one of common complications of the disease. But nowadays, there’s only about half of a dozen (burst ulcers) per year! If compared to a few decades ago, this number decreases significantly since we used to find half of a dozen per week.
If severe acute bleeding occurs, surgical intervention may be required. But surgery for treating stomach ulcer and its complications are far less often than previously. Because there are many effective treatments now available – see a doctor for more guidance!
Other serious complications of stomach ulcer, which may also require surgery, are:
- Perforation (a condition in which the affected stomach lining splitting open).
- Ulcer swelling that can become severe enough to cause obstruction in the digestive tract, blocking passage of food through your stomach and digestive system.
What else to understand?
If you’re not diagnosed with any peptic ulcers and you experience symptoms of gastrointestinal bleeding such as passing stools containing blood, vomiting blood, and paleness – a number of tests are required to rule out other conditions. In fact there are a number of medical conditions that can cause gastrointestinal bleeding with similar symptoms, some are outlined below:
- Hemorrhoids, one of common causes of gastrointestinal bleeding. It is inflamed veins in the lowest part of rectum. It’s not dangerous, but sometimes can be so painful.
- Colitis, inflammation that develops in the inner lining of large intestine.
- Angiodysplasia, a condition in which you have enlarged-abnormal blood vessels in the gastrointestinal tract that can bleed easily.
- Diverticular disease, the formation of diverticula (tinny bulges or small pockets) in the lining of the bowel. If these tiny bulges push outward through the colon wall, they can cause gastrointestinal bleeding.
- Esophagitis, a weakened esophageal sphincter that allow stomach acid to flow upwards into the esophagus. As a result, this can irritate and damage the esophagus, causing sores and bleeding.
- Colon polyps, a small growth of cells in the lining of the colon. They are usually harmless, but sometimes they can also cause internal bleeding. In worst scenario, they might become cancer. The earlier they’re removed, the less likely it is that they will turn into serious or become malignant.
- Benign (non-cancerous) and cancerous growths in the rectum, colon, stomach, or esophagus.