How Can Stress Cause Ulcers In Stomach? Symptoms & Treatment

An ulcer is an open sore in the internal lining of the stomach, intestine or anywhere along the digestive tract. There are host of factors involved in development of ulcer. Since centuries stress was considered to be a major risk for ulcer formation. Ulcers can also be caused by a type of bacteria called H.pylori. Use of non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) for a long period is also a reason for stomach ulcers. Too much acid secreted in certain diseases has been associated with peptic ulcers which includes both stomach and duodenum ulcers.

Although stress alone may not be a cause of ulcer formation, it can have a significant influence in its development among critically ill patient or patients staying for a long duration in intensive care unit. Let us know how stress can cause ulcers.

There are multiple factors that play a role in development of ulcer in stomach and duodenum. Firstly the internal lining that protects the stomach wall has to be disrupted for an ulcer to develop. This damage to the internal layer is caused by bacterial infection, namely the H.pylori bacteria. The stomach lining can also be eroded due to prolong use of steroids or non steroidal drugs.

Secondly the acid secreted in stomach should be in excess to cause further damage to the erosion of stomach layer. Here comes the role of stress. Prolonged stress is known to increase production of stomach acid. While in rare cases stress may be the lone cause, in majority of cases bacterial infection and anti inflammatory medicines play a major role.

Severe physical and mental stress is also experienced by patient suffering from burn injury, critically ill patients who are staying in intensive care unit for a long time. These ulcers are also called Cushing’s ulcers. The ulcers in such case are believed to occur due to reduced flow of blood to the stomach.

Sign And Symptoms Of Stress Ulcers

Below are given some of the important symptoms of stress ulcers.

  • Pain in abdomen is the prominent symptom of an ulcer. Patient generally complains of pain in and around the stomach and breastbone area. Pain is aggravated when the acid secreted by the stomach comes in contact with the ulcer. Pain is intermittent and may become more severe when the stomach is empty. It can also increase few hours after eating food.
  • Nausea, eructation and bloating of the stomach are other possible symptoms of stress ulcer.
  • In rare cases ulcer in stomach and duodenum bleed. This occurs when the ulcer is left untreated or if the open sore has worsened. Patient may have black tarry stools if there is small amount of bleeding from the ulcer. However, vomiting of blood is an indication of serious condition.
  • When small amount of blood is lost, patient may develop anemia and its related symptoms such as increased tiredness, loss of appetite, etc.

Treatment For Stomach Ulcers Caused By Stress

The treatment of stress ulcer is same as that of gastritis or a chronic ulcer. Medicines along with change of lifestyle and diet are important criteria for treating stress ulcer. At the same time measures must be taken to minimize the stress. Antibiotics are required if there is bacterial infection. Proton pump inhibitors are useful in reducing acid secretion.

Change in lifestyle is essential. Patient should avoid eating spicy and oily food. At the same time he should avoid drinking alcohol, smoking and excess of coffee and tea. He should not use steroids or anti inflammatory medicines as this may lead to perforation and bleeding from the ulcer. Practicing yoga and meditation is beneficial in reducing stress.