Ulcers are sores or tiny craters in the lining of the digestive tract. They are usually from one eighth to three quarters of an inch in diameter. They may occur either in the upper part of the small intestine(duodenal ulcers), in the stomach(gastric ulcers), or the lower esophagus(esophageal ulcers).
Although there is no one clear cause of ulcers, they are thought to be associated with a bacteria called helocobacter pylori. Although ulcers themselves are not contagious, the H.pylori bacteria can be passed from person to person through contaminated food or water.
Once the bacteria is present, other factors may contribute to the development of the ulcer. These factors include the use of non-steroidal medications, excessive alcohol use, stress and trauma, smoking, and other illnesses. It is thought that some individuals have a predisposition to ulcers and that others may have excessive secretions of acid which may contributes to the formation of ulcers.
The symptoms of an ulcer in the stomach or intestine are the same as those of other stomach problems. They include burning, gnawing pain especially between meals, and even at night, when the stomach is empty. There may also be bloating, nausea, or vomiting after meals. A small meal or an antacid may relieve the pain at least temporarily. Some of these symptoms may occur after eating certain foods.
Less common symptoms of ulcers include dark stools, a change in appetite patterns, and the vomiting of blood.
Untreated ulcers can cause sufficient bleeding to cause anemia. Having an ulcer is like having an open sore which increases the likelihood of infection. Scar tissue which can result from ulcers can form an obstruction which may cause vomiting and weight loss.
If you have extreme symptoms, you should see a physician immediately. If you have mild symptoms there are some simple measures you can take for relief. If your symptoms to not significantly improve after trying the following measures for two weeks at the most, see your doctor immediately.
1. Stop smoking.
2. Eliminate, or at least limit, the use of alcohol.
3. Eat small more frequent meals.
4. Avoid tea, coffee, colas, and any products with caffeine.
5. Avoid foods that obviously bring on pain. Eliminate from you diet both spicey and greasy foods.
6. If possible, avoid the use of Aspirin and ibuprofen. Try acetaminophen.
7. Discuss with your pharmacist the use of an appropriate antacid.
8. Try to reduce the stress in your life as much as possible. Stress contributes to many health problems as well as ulcers.
If you have been diagnosed with ulcers and are receiving treatment, you should return to your doctor immediately if:
a) you have any of the following symptoms – severe continuous pain in the abdomen, severe vomiting, blood in your stools, dizziness or any signs of shock.
b)you are losing weight for not obvious reason.
c) swallowing if difficult or painful.
d)you have severe nausea or vomiting after eating.
e)you symptoms do not improve after two weeks of treatment
e)you have pain in the upper abdomen and chest or any of the symptoms of a heart attack.
Children too can develop ulcers. You may not be able to prevent all ulcers completely, but you can greatly reduce their incidents by eating a healthy diet, exercising, and, as much as possible, avoiding smoking, stress, and the excessive use of alcohol.