An ulcer is a discontinuity or break in a bodily membrane that impedes the organ.

1. Ulcers
There is no clear evidence to suggest that the stress of modern life or a steady diet of fast food causes ulcers in the stomach and small intestine, but they are nonetheless common in our society About one out of every 10 Americans will suffer from the burning, gnawing abdominal pain of a peptic or gastric ulcer at some point in life.
Peptic ulcers are holes or breaks in the protective lining of the duodenum the upper part of the small intestine or the stomach areas that come into contact with stomach acids and enzymes. Duodenal ulcers are more common than stomach ulcers. Comparatively rare are esophageal ulcers, which form in the esophagus or swallowing tube and are often a result of exposure to medications, like certain antibiotics or anti inflammatories, or alcohol abuse.

2. Causes
No single cause has been found for ulcers. However, it is now clear that an ulcer is the end result of an imbalance between digestive fluids in the stomach and duodenum. Most ulcers are caused by an infection with a type of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori H. pylori .

3. Symptoms
An ulcer may or may not have symptoms. When symptoms occur, they may include
A gnawing or burning pain in the middle or upper stomach between meals or at night Bloating
Nausea or vomiting
In severe cases, symptoms can include
Dark or black stool due to bleeding
Vomiting blood that can look like coffee grounds
Weight loss
Severe pain in the mid to upper abdomen

4. Prevention
To prevent the spread of bacteria and reduce risk of bacterial infection, wash your hands with soap and water on a regular basis and make sure that all food is properly cleaned and cooked thoroughly.
To prevent ulcers caused by NSAIDs, stop using these medications if possible or limit their use. In you need to take NSAIDs, be sure to follow the recommended dosage and avoid alcohol while taking these medications.
Certain lifestyle changes can also help prevent ulcers from forming. Limiting alcohol consumption, avoiding tobacco products, and properly managing stress can all contribute to a healthy stomach lining.

5. Diagnosis And Tests
Doctors most commonly diagnose ulcers using endoscopy, Swaminath said. This involves taking a camera directly into the stomach to look for ulcers and taking biopsies to make sure the ulcers arent really cancer or something else, he said.
A breath test consists of drinking a glass of liquid that contains a radioactive substance. This substance reacts with H. pylori so that when an individual with stomach ulcers blows into a bag, the breath will contain the radioactive carbon in the form of carbon dioxide.

6. Treatment And Medication
Treatment of stomach ulcers consists of killing H. pylori and decreasing the amount of acid in the stomach. This requires several types of medications.Physicians may prescribe several antibiotics at once, or use a combination drug such as Helidac to kill H. pylori. Helidac contains two antibiotics along with an acid reducing drug and a medication that protects stomach tissue.The doctors will also try to stop other medications the patient is taking and might have a role in worsening the ulcers.
Most of the time, we try to withdraw the offending medication, but that is not always possible, for example patients on aspirin who have heart arrhythmias, or recent heart stents, Swaminath said. We put patients on high doses of the drug for eight weeks by which time the area will typically heal, Swaminath said. A low dose is continued indefinitely if the offending medication cant be discontinued.

7. When To Call a Doctor
Symptoms that could indicate a heart attack or shock.Sudden severe, continuous belly pain or vomiting.Call your doctor or seek medical attention right away if you have
Frequent feelings of dizziness or lightheadedness, especially when moving from lying down to a seated or standing position.
Blood in your vomit or something that looks like coffee grounds partially digested blood in your vomit.
Stools that are black or that look like tar, or stools that contain dark red or maroon blood.

8. Complications
Left untreated, peptic ulcers can result in
Internal bleeding. Bleeding can occur as slow blood loss that leads to anemia or as severe blood loss that may require hospitalization or a blood transfusion. Severe blood loss may cause black or bloody vomit or black or bloody stools.
Infection. Peptic ulcers can eat a hole through the wall of your stomach or small intestine, putting you at risk of serious infection of your abdominal cavity peritonitis .
Scar tissue. Peptic ulcers can also produce scar tissue that can block passage of food through the digestive tract, causing you to become full easily, to vomit and to lose weight.

9. Preparing for your appointment
Make an appointment with your family doctor or a general practitioner if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you. If you re thought to have a peptic ulcer, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in the digestive system gastroenterologist .It s a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment. Here s some information to help you get ready, and what you can expect from your doctor.

10. Make a list of all medications
Including over the counter medications, vitamins or supplements that you re taking. It s especially important to note any pain reliever use and the usual dose that you take.

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