How To Treat and Prevent Ulcers

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An ulcer is an open sore or erosion on surface of an organ or tissue. The most common ulcers erupt in the digestive tract, in which case they are known as peptic ulcers. Peptic ulcers can appear in the lining of the esophagus (before stomach) or duodenum (after stomach).

Symptoms:

Ulcers produce mild symptoms resembling heartburn, indigestion or severe pain radiating through the upper portion of the body. The most common discomfort is a burning in the abdomen above the navel that may feel like hunger pangs. Usually the pains subside after eating or drinking something or taking an antacid to neutralize stomach acid.

Some people experience nausea, vomiting and constipation. Look out for extreme weakness, fainting and excessive thirst – they are all signs of internal bleeding and may appear with more advanced ulcers.

Causes:

Although the cause of peptic ulcers is unconfirmed, it is more commonly caused by

 1. Excessive amounts of acidic secretion by stomach after consumption of coffee, alcohol, aspirin or other painkillers, or after smoking a cigarette.

2. The less common stomach ulcers may be due to a weakness in the wall of the stomach.

3. Studies suggest that helicobacter, a bacterium that can live in the stomach may be a cause of this illness.

4. Emotional stress may also play a role in ulcer development

5. Heredity – people who have a history of ulcers in family seem to have a greater likelihood of acquiring the ulcers.

6. Liver disease, rheumatoid, arthritis and emphysema may increase vulnerability to ulcers.

Treatment:

While ulcers are not always life threatening, they can cause serious damage if left untreated. They may corrode nearby blood vessels and cause internal bleeding. A perforated ulcer may penetrate an adjoining organ causing infection.

Treatment of ulcers involves relieving the irritation so the healing progresses naturally.

Over-the-counter antacids relieve symptoms but can cause complications. Combinations of antibiotics and other drugs work against the stomach bacteria, helicobacter, thought to be the cause of many stomach ulcers. Other drugs may form a protective coating against the acid in the stomach or inhibit gastric acid secretion.

As for the diet, avoid consuming foods known to cause stomach distress. The effect of milk is questionable though its neutralizing action on stomach acid is mild and temporary at best. Also, people who substitute milk for alcohol or caffeine are less likely to irritate their ulcers. Most ulcers heal within two to six weeks after treatment begins.

Prevention:

To prevent recurrence, you should refrain from smoking cigarettes, consumption of drinks which have caffeine, alcohol, or other agents that would stimulate production of stomach acids or irritate the digestive track lining eg hard foods.

When drug therapy and diet cannot cure an ulcer, then surgical removal becomes necessary.

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