What do you know about digestive ulcers? Though digestive ulcers have long been considered the result of stress, we now know that they are caused by a variety of factors, including the presence of a bacterium in the digestive system. Let’s cast some light on the subject.
The causes of digestive ulcers
Since digestive ulcers can result in great discomfort and occasionally lead to serious complications, you need to be able to recognize their symptoms quickly. Ulcers affect about 10% of the population, particularly adults aged 40 years and up.
Digestive ulcers develop mainly in the stomach (gastric ulcers) or in the initial part of the small intestine (duodenal ulcers). Ulcers may be described as injuries to the lining of the digestive tube. Like a wound on the hand, ulcers are very painful, especially when in contact with acid from the stomach.
All along the lining of the digestive tube, there are defence mechanisms that fight off harmful aggressors. When there is an imbalance between our defence systems and aggression agents, an ulcer can develop. Aggression factors responsible for the development of digestive ulcers include:
- Certain medications such as anti-inflammatories
- A bacterium known as H. pylori
Recognizing signs and symptoms
Symptoms of digestive ulcers may vary depending on the location of the ulcer and the gravity of the problem. People with ulcers complain mainly of a burning sensation or pain in the upper abdomen. The pain fluctuates in accordance with meals. It can be either aggravated or eased by eating food. Other signs include burping and bloating. If you think you have a digestive ulcer, speak with your physician or pharmacist – they can help.
You need to watch for certain symptoms that may suggest a more serious underlying problem. If that’s the case, see your physician immediately. These more serious symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weight loss
- Presence of blood when you vomit (that looks like coffee grounds)
- Black stool (a sign of blood in the stool)
If ulcers are neglected for too long, they can bring on complications, for example, bleeding.
Preventive measures and treatment
There are many ways to prevent the development and worsening of digestive ulcers. Here are a few:
- Take smaller meals and eat more often
- Avoid drinking liquids with your meal
- Avoid eating before lying down
- Quit smoking
- Reduce your level of stress
- Avoid coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate, and spicy meals
- Don’t take anti-inflammatories. Speak with your pharmacist for a safer treatment option
The first step in the treatment of digestive ulcers is to eliminate the cause. For example, if the ulcer is caused by a bacterium, an antibiotic will be prescribed for treatment. If it’s caused by anti-inflammatories, you have to stop taking the anti-inflammatory medication. To identify the source, your physician will probably order some medical tests. Subsequently, you’ll probably have to take some form of medication. Medication used in the treatment of digestive ulcers is designed to neutralize or reduce stomach acid, thereby allowing the ulcer to heal.
If you have a digestive ulcer, chances are you have a burning desire to get rid of it. By taking charge of your condition quickly – using effective medication and changing some of your lifestyle choices – you can say goodbye to digestive ulcers.