WHAT IS AN ULCER?

An ulcer (called a peptic ulcer) is a small hole in the lining of the gut and affects 10% of people throughout their lifetime. It can be in the stomach (gastric ulcer) or the first part of the bowel (duodenal ulcer). It is caused by the gastric juices eroding a particular area in the lining until there is an erosion or hole. The danger is that it can bleed, either very slowly causing you to become anemic and exhausted, or it can suddenly bleed which is an emergency.

How do you know if you have one?

The most common symptoms are:

– constant or worsening heartburn/indigestion

– burning pain in the upper stomach area, usually 1-2 hours after meals

– pain is helped by antacids and milk

– pain is worse when the stomach is empty, especially at night

If it is severe, you may vomit blood or have old blood in your stools which would turn it black.

Who is more likely to get an ulcer?

– Men

– Middle-aged adults

– Smokers

– Heavy drinkers (of alcohol)

– Those who are under constant stress or anxiety

– Those who take regular anti-inflammatories (e.g. Nurofen, Brufen), aspirin, or steroids.

– Those who have an infection in their gut called Helicobacter Pylori (this is a bacteria that many people have in their stomachs, and it contributes to ulcer formation and also to gastric cancer).

– Those with a family history of ulcers

– Those with blood group type ‘O.’

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How is an ulcer diagnosed?

Many people are already semi-treating their ulcers by using antacid drugs such as Zantac for their severe indigestion. This is best avoided, as you don’t know exactly what you are treating. A definitive diagnosis should be made by a specialist performing an endoscopy (a tube with a tiny camera is passed into the stomach while you are sedated), as well as a biopsy or blood test for the bacteria Helicobacter Pylori.

What is the treatment?

– Medications such as Losec, Zantac for a set period, and antibiotics if the bacteria is present.

– Take antacids as needed – e.g. Mylanta, Maine before meals and before bed

– Stop smoking

– Avoid aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs

– Don’t skip meals or have late night snacks

– Eat a balanced diet with regular meals

– Avoid foods that make you feel worse – like tuna, cucumber, onion, tomatoes and spicy foods.

– Lose weight if you need to

– Reduce intake of alcohol – especially with meals. Read more at http://healthandcaretips.com

– Avoid fatty foods

– Avoid caffeine – coffee, tea, chocolate

– Avoid gaseous drinks

– If symptoms are worse as soon as you lie down, try elevating the head of the bed.