Ulcers
Last Edited: April 10th, 2012

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Ulcers

Contrary to popular belief, stress and modern day diets rarely contribute to the formation of ulcers. However, one in ten Americans can expect to experience the pain, and gnawing burn of a peptic ulcer some time during their lives. Ulcers are simply a perforation in the lining of the stomach or small intestine. These are the areas that come into contact with the highly caustic stomach acid and enzymes humans create in order to digest food. Ulcers of the small intestines are more common than stomach ulcers.

Types

There are three main types of ulcers: Duodenal ulcers, stomach ulcers and esophageal ulcers. While all three of these sub types have their own causes and onset, many of the symptoms are similar, such as pain and a burning sensation when eating or drinking.

Duodenal ulcers are the most common form of ulcer and forms in the upper area of the small intestine. While stomach acid secretion plays a part in the formation of these ulcers, bacterial infection or the improper use of over the counter pain medications such as aspirin, acetaminophens or ibuprofen are the typical culprits. Individuals with type O blood form duodenal ulcers more often than people who have other blood types. This is thought to be a result of not having the protective coating on the surface of their blood cells that prevent ulcer formation on the duodenal lining.

Stomach ulcers are much like duodenal ulcers in both formation and symptoms with the main difference being where they form. Stomach ulcers are found in the stomach. Additionally, though the reason is not known, individuals with type A blood are more prone to developing cancerous stomach ulcers.

Esophageal ulcers form in the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach and are usually caused by excessive alcohol consumption.

Symptoms

Symptoms of ulcers include a gnawing, burning pain in the abdomen and stomach, usually after introducing food or drink into the digestive system. This is because the introduction of food or drink into the stomach triggers the release of stomach acid which irritates the nerves in the lining of the digestive tract.

Causes

Peptic ulcers are caused by a number of different modalities including bacterial infections, improper use of over the counter pain medications, alcohol and tobacco use, and the regular use of other medications that have been shown to cause ulcers.

Risk factors

Risk factors for ulcers including the following:

  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Uncontrolled stress

Treatment

Treatment for arthritis depends upon the type and severity of the symptoms and the underlying cause. Bacterial infections are treatment with the administration of antibiotics. Acid production blocking medications may be prescribed in order to prevent worsening of existing ulcers. Antacids may also be used to neutralize acid that is already in the stomach. Additional treatments can also include changing medications that have caused an ulcer as well as stopping the use of alcohol and tobacco.