What is a Stomach Ulcer?
An ulcer is a sore or lesion that develops in the tissue lining of the stomach or duodenum. The stomach produces stomach acids such as pepsin and hydrochloric acid to digest the food. If these stomach acids and digestive juices injure and corrode the stomach’s lining of protective mucus, then an ulcer may form. Ulcers in the stomach are known as stomach or gastric ulcers while those found in the duodenum are called duodenal ulcers. They can develop at any age, but are generally uncommon amongst children and teenagers. Stomach ulcers tend to affect people over the age of 60, particularly more women than men.
Diagnosing Stomach Ulcers
If a stomach ulcer is suspected, your doctor will conduct a thorough physical examination as well as medical history. A range of tests may be performed to check your blood, tissue or breath for H. pylori bacterium.
Additional tests may also be performed and include:
- X-rays of the stomach and duodenum
- Barium meal
What Causes Stomach Ulcers?
There are a variety of factors that may contribute to the development of an ulcer and these include:
- Bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori)
- Certain medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which include aspirin, ibuprofen and analgesics
- Excessive amounts of alcohol
- Family history of ulcers linked to being group type O
- Physical stress such as major surgery or trauma like severe burns
Help for Stomach Ulcers
Stomach ulcers cannot be healed overnight, but with the correct treatment and lifestyle modifications, a recurrence can be prevented. Over-the-counter drugs such as antacids may be used to treat mild symptoms but are generally not as effective.
Antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors or histamine receptors may be prescribed to stop acid production and kill H. pylori bacterium. Some of these medications can result in some negative side effects which include diarrhea, dizziness, headaches and nausea. Certain lifestyle changes such as eating several smaller, healthier meals during the day, eliminating caffeine, alcohol and smoking as well as reducing stress can decrease gastric irritation.
Tips to Help Ulcers
- Eat several, small healthy, balanced meals throughout the day
- Avoid eating foods that are spicy, fatty or acidic
- Incorporate more high fiber foods such as fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains into your diet
- Exercise regularly
- Stop smoking
- Avoid drinking caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, tea or colas
- Avoid drinking alcohol as it irritates the stomach
- Avoid taking drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen as they cause stomach inflammation
- Reduce and manage stress by practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga or Pilates
- Get as much rest and sleep as possible
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