What Are Ulcers ?
There is no clear evidence to suggest that the stress of modern life or a steady diet of fast food causes ulcers in the stomach and small intestine, but they are nonetheless common in our society: About one out of every 10 Americans will suffer from the burning, gnawing abdominal pain of a peptic (or gastric) ulcer sometime in life.
Duodenal ulcers tend to appear in people with type O blood, possibly because they do not produce the substance on the surface of blood cells (hence type O) that may protect the lining of the duodenum.
Fortunately, peptic ulcers are relatively easy to treat; in many cases they are cured with antibiotics, antacids, and other medications that reduce the amount of acid produced by the stomach. There are also a variety of self-help and alternative treatments that can aid in relieving pain and in healing ulcers. Still, the dangers associated with peptic ulcers -- such as anemia, profuse bleeding, and stomach cancer -- are serious, so ulcers should always be monitored by your doctor.
The following are the most important causes of peptic ulcers : -
- The most common cause is infection of the stomach with bacteria called Helicobacter pylori or H. pylori. This infection is quite common; about half of the world's population is infected. These bacteria cause the stomach to make too much acid, which damages the lining of the stomach or duodenum and can cause the ulcer.
- Some medicines, called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can cause peptic ulcers. Examples of these medicines include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and diclofenac. However most people can take these safely. If you are in doubt which painkillers to take, ask your pharmacist.
- Smoking and drinking excessive alcohol increase your chances of developing a peptic ulcer.
Some people with a peptic ulcer have no symptoms. However, many people have upper abdominal pain usually just below the breastbone (sternum). You may sometimes feel a pain in your back. The pain usually comes on an hour or two after eating and can be relieved by more food or antacid medicine.
It may also wake you at night : -
- general discomfort in the abdomen
- bloating or fullness after eating
- feeling sick
- Bleeding inside the body (internal bleeding)
- Gastric outlet obstruction
- Inflammation of the tissue that lines the wall of the abdomen (peritonitis)
- Perforation of the stomach and intestines
Treatment involves a combination of medications to kill the H. pylori bacteria (if present), reduce acid levels, and protect the GI tract. This strategy allows your ulcer to heal and reduces the chance it will come back.
Take all of your medications exactly as prescribed.
Medications may include one or more of the following : -
- Acid blockers (such as cimetidine, ranitidine, or famotidine)
- Antibiotics to kill H. pylori
- Bismuth to help protect the lining and kill the bacteria
- Medications that protect the tissue lining (such as sucralfate)
- Proton pump inhibitors such as omeprazole (Prilosec), lansoprazole (Prevacid), or esomeprazole (Nexium)
If you have an ulcer without an H. pylori infection, your doctor will likely prescribe a proton pump inhibitor for 8 weeks. You may also be prescribed this type of medicine if you must continue taking aspirin or NSAIDs for other health conditions. If a peptic ulcer bleeds a lot, an EGD may be needed to stop the bleeding. Surgery may be needed if bleeding cannot be stopped with an EGD, or if the ulcer has caused a perforation.
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