Difference between Ulcer and Acid Reflux
Key Difference: Ulcer is a disease that is caused by bacteria, Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria to be exact. The bacteria produce substances that weaken the mucous lining causing the stomach to get burned. Acid reflux is a condition when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the one-way valve referred to above relaxes allowing the digestive acid in the stomach to flow backwards into the esophagus.
Ulcers and acid reflux are two different types of diseases that may cause a person discomfort, burning sensation or pain in the stomach. These are often mistaken to be the same disease; however, they are not. Ulcers and acid reflux may seem the same because of the burning sensation and the acidic taste in the mouth, which makes it seem like a normal case of acid reflux or heartburn. However, ulcers are much more dangerous and can even progress to causing stomach cancer.
Ulcer is a disease that is caused by bacteria, Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria to be exact. This species of bacteria has a spiral shape that allows it to swim through the mucous lining of the stomach and produce substances that weaken the mucous lining. This causes the acid to burn the internal side of the stomach, resulting in the burning sensation and the pain the stomach. They can also attach to the cells of the stomach and cause inflammation, causing the stomach to produce excess acid. This disease may show symptoms or may not, making it much more difficult to diagnose. Ulcers can also occur on the skin and are known as sores and blisters. These cause the skin to become red and irritated, resulting in pain when touched or pressed. These sores are caused by exposure to heat or cold, irritation, problems with blood circulation or the lack of mobility.
Peptic ulcers and duodenal ulcers are two of the most common types of ulcers that take place in the gastro-esophageal tract. Peptic ulcers take place in the stomach, while the duodenal ulcers take placed in the duodenum or the upper part of the small intestine. The least common type of ulcer is esophageal ulcers, which take place in the esophagus as a result of excessive drinking. Peptic ulcers cause sharp burning or gnawing sensation in the stomach, which gets worse when stomach is empty and better when it is full. The sensation also does not change with the position of the body, such as lying down or standing. The pain could also worsen if the person takes pain medication and better when they take an antacid. Other symptoms also include: weight loss, loss of appetite, bloating, burping, nausea, vomiting and black, tarry stools.
Acid reflux is a condition when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the one-way valve referred to above relaxes allowing the digestive acid in the stomach to flow backwards into the esophagus. Normally, the LES closes as soon as the food goes through it into the stomach and the pressure created by digestion helps seal the LES even further. However, under certain conditions, the LES does not always work in the way it should. When the LES relaxes, it allows the digestive acid to rise and go into the esophagus. This is what acid reflux is. It does not produce any burning sensations and most of the time the person would not even feel the acid flowing back up.
Acid reflux and heartburn are common conditions and can occur as frequently has once a week for some people. However, any more than one per week can point to a much serious disease known as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. GERD is a chronic disease where acid constantly flow from the stomach to the lower esophagus, thus burning the esophagus. Long-term GERD can result in Barrett's esophagus. Barrett's esophagus is a condition where the color and composition of the esophagus change due to constant exposure to digestive acid. Barrett’s can in-turn cause esophageal cancer. Heartburn can also be caused by other conditions such as inflamed stomach lining, peptic ulcer or a hiatal hernia.
Originally ulcers were considered to occur due to a spike in lifestyle changes, or excess fatty foods, alcohol, smoking and many other such factors. This is one of the main reasons why ulcers are commonly confused with other gastric diseases or conditions such as acid reflux. Ulcers are quite treatable and manageable and should the person should consult a doctor the moment they experience excessive stomach pain.
Image Courtesy: gastriculcer.blogspot.com, naturesnaturalhealing.com