You know the pain well. It’s a deep grinding pain in your stomach that can double you over sometimes. This pain often feels like someone is stabbing you near your breastbone and food will at times alleviate the pain but usually only temporarily.
Ulcers where once blamed on food choices and stress. An Australian doctor was so sure peptic ulcer disease was caused by a bacteria he ingest the bacteria himself to prove it. He soon developed ulcers and a new direction in treating ulcers was taken. It is estimated that 25 million people in the US have peptic ulcers.
The bacterium responsible (H. pylori) enters the system and causes crater-like sores in the sides of the stomach and sometimes in the upper parts of the intestines. The protective layer of the digestive system is compromised and stomach acids eat away at the underlying tissues. This causes pain, discomfort and sometimes bleeding.
Upwards of 80% of the people with ulcers have the bacteria to thank for their condition. The other 20% have ulcers due to heredity, physical stress, aspirin therapy, drinking or cigarette smoking. These things cause a weakening of the stomach lining leading to peptic ulcers.
The symptoms of a peptic ulcer are very easy to notice. The most common symptom is a grinding or burning feeling in your stomach. You may feel a shooting pain in your upper abdomen that may temporarily disappear once you eat. You can also feel nausea, begin to lose weight and experience bloating. Many will experience the worst pain in the middle of the night when the stomach is completely empty of any foods or liquids.
People with more severe cases of peptic ulcers will vomit up blood or find it in their stool. The ulcer can eat through the stomach or intestines completely which can cause blockage or will allow food to go out of the digestive system into the body which in turn can cause a possibly fatal infection.
You doctor should test you for the bacteria H. pylori. If you have these bacteria you will be given an antibiotic to clear up the infection. If you do not you may be treated with drugs that help to coat and protect the lining of your stomach and intestines.
Your doctor may take X-rays of your stomach and intestinal area or use a camera to explore the digestive system to look for ulcers. In some cases your doctor may take a small sample of your tissue.
If your ulcers are producing blood in the stool or you are vomiting blood you may have to have surgery. Your doctor will either remove the ulcers or do a procedure to limit the amount of acid your stomach produces.
If you have peptic ulcer disease you will be asked to quit smoking and drinking. These both will irritate and possibly worsen your condition. You will need to find an alternative to aspirin-like medications. Remember that ulcers will not clear up overnight and may return. If you are prescribed medication take the full course even if you think you are feeling better.
Changing your eating habits may also help reduce the pain associated with peptic ulcers. In some cases dairy products may aggravate your condition and spicy foods can cause extreme pain and should be avoided. It is also suggested that you eat smaller more frequent meals to keep your stomach from sitting empty for too long.
If you believe you have peptic ulcer disease please see your doctor as soon as possible. This article is only a guide and should not substitute for medical attention and treatment.