Signs of a Bleeding Stomach Ulcer
If you know that you have stomach ulcer symptoms experience tarry stool, this could be a sign that the ulcerations are getting worse. A visit to your doctor is recommended.
Tarry stool is an indication of internal bleeding, usually somewhere in the upper digestive system. This symptom is characterized by dark colored stool (appears to be black) that is thick or has the consistency of tar. It may also carry a very foul odor and is called “melena” in medical terms.
Another medical term used to describe blood in the stool is “hematochezia”. This refers to maroon colored stool and typically occurs when a part of the lower digestive system is bleeding. However, some stomach ulcers that are bleeding heavily or bleeding cause by injury to the upper digestive system can result in maroon stool.
Why does Stomach Ulcer Bleeding Cause Tarry Stool?
The different between the two types of bleeding indicators is the color and consistency of the blood in the stool. Melena (black tarry stool) and hematochezai (maroon bloody stools) either come from different areas of the body or are expelled at different rates.
For example, a bleeding ulcer is usually bleeding slowly. The blood from the ulcer slowly makes its way through the rest of the digestive system and is ultimately expelled as stool. During the time that it takes for the blood to exit the body it becomes very thick and darkens in color because of reactions with digestive enzymes and oxygen.
Maroon stools have taken less time to exit the body or encountered fewer digestive enzymes. Lower digestive bleeding is usually indicated with these colors. Bright red blood in the stool indicates bleeding very near to the rectum or from the rectum.
Is Black Tarry Stool the only Symptom of Stomach Ulcers?
No. Stomach ulcers may start to bleed and cause tarry stool because they are getting worse, from a clinical perspective. For some people, black tarry stool is the first sign that they have a stomach ulcer. Others may vomit and find that there is a significant amount of blood mixed with their stomach contents.
Not all people with stomach ulcers feel pain and many believe that their symptoms are related to acid reflux. Other symptoms of a bleeding stomach ulcer are can be misleading. In addition to black tarry stool, a person may feel tired a lot or lightheaded when standing too quickly.
Heartburn and indigestion may be treated with antacids and a number of over the counter medications for a period of years, with the person never realizing that this problem with stomach acid has also caused them to develop a stomach ulcer.
What Should I Do if I Suspect Stomach Ulcers are Causing Tarry Stool?
The first thing a person with this symptom should do is see a doctor about the symptom. Even if he or she does not have a stomach ulcer, bleeding in the digestive system is often a serious matter. Small problems related to constipation or fleeting digestive issues rarely cause enough blood to produce tarry stools.
In short, the presence of tarry stool is an indication that something in the upper digestive system is significantly wrong. Stomach ulcers are a common cause for the symptoms of digestive bleeding. Although they can be treated or controlled with appropriate medication and under the supervision of a medical professional, stomach ulcers can get much worse if left untreated.
Eventually, stomach ulcers can lead to perforations. A perforation is a hole in the stomach that is not only painful, but allows the stomach’s acid contents to leak into the body. This causes toxicity and can cause death.
Repeated development of new stomach ulcers, and those which are untreated for a long period of time, can also cause scarring. Scarring can lead to digestive blocking in places where passageways are narrow.
Ulcers often develop in the duodenum, a space just below the stomach where food passes through to the lower digestive system. Ulcers can also develop in the pyloric channel, a small passageway between the stomach and duodenum. Ulcers that develop in the esophagus can cause the tube to narrow, making it difficult or painful to swallow. These areas are especially vulnerable to blockages cause by scarring.
Any stomach ulcer can begin to bleed and produce tarry stools, even those in the duodenum and pyloric channel.
How are Tarry Stool and Stomach Ulcer Treated?
Bloody stool is a symptom of bleeding stomach ulcers that should be treated as soon as possible. Usually, and endoscopic procedure will allow doctors to determine if the bleeding is so severe that an immediate treatment for bleeding is necessary. If tarry stool is overly liquid, it could be an indication of excessive bleeding.
In cases where stomach ulcers are bleeding excessively, the endoscope may also be used to cauterize the ulcer and stop the bleeding while treatment for the root problem is carried out.
The root problem is usually bacteria, stomach acid and pepsin. Medications to kill bad bacteria and reduce stomach acid production will be administered. If the person is already taking medication for stomach ulcers, it is likely that a new treatment will be recommended to find a more effective way to promote healing.
In rare cases, NSAID pain relievers and malignant tumors cause ulcers that are so sever they bleed and cause tarry stools. Whenever possible, doctors will attempt to remove the source of the problem. For NSAID users, this may mean finding an alternative pain reliever or blood thinner (in the case of heart related aspirin use).
For those with malignant tumors, the tumors must be removed to cause any improvement in tarry stools in the future. In all cases, doctors will treat the problem of acid production and excessively bleeding ulcers.