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Stomach Ulcer – Why is it so common?

As lifestyles of people around the world undergo a total upheaval, with an individual opting for fast food, alcohol and caffeine in large amounts on a daily basis rather than a vitamin and protein rich diet, terms like ulcers are being commonly heard around homes. An ulcer is an open sore, blister or a cyst which may occur internally or externally in an individual’s body resulting from a break in the skin or mucous membrane which is unable to heal.

An ulcer is mainly classified into two types depending on which section of the body it occurs in. The one found in the duodenum is called a duodenal ulcer while the one located in the stomach is referred to as a stomach, peptic or gastric ulcer. It has been understood that the main cause of an ulcer is the imbalance of digestive fluids.

Among the various reasons that can lead to the occurrence of a peptic ulcer, one of the most common is an unhealthy lifestyle including a large intake of alcohol and tobacco.Infections caused due to a bacterium known as Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori) may also lead to gastric ulcers.

While most ulcers are found in the first layer of the inner lining of the stomach, a medical emergency may also occur if the ulcer or hole goes all the way through the stomach or duodenum causing a perforation. Regular intake of prescribed drugs like NSAIDs (aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen) has also been found as one the major causes of stomach ulcers. Individuals who are extremely ill, as in who are undergoing a radiation treatment, suffering from a rare Zollinger-Ellison syndrome or are on the breathing machine, are susceptible to developing an ulcer.

Diagnosis of an ulcer should not be an issue by your gastroenterologist as its symptoms can be a total give away, but in a majority of cases diagnosis is done by prescribing an upper endoscopy. Small ulcers usually do not lead to significant visible symptoms, yet bloating, nausea, vomiting blood, black stool and burning pain in the middle or upper region of the stomach between meals or at night is a sure shot indication of the presence of an ulcer in the patient’s body. Though it has been found that ulcers can heal by itself, yet total ignorance of the condition can lead to serious consequences involving bleeding and perforation.

Fortunately, this problem is treatable through medications such as PPI or proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec, Prevacid, Protonix, Dexilant and Nexium which reduce acid levels, hence allowing the ulcer to heal. Antibiotics, Upper endoscope and surgery are some other prescribed ways of remedying an ulcer.

But one of the most important factors to be kept in mind is leading a healthy lifestyle, without the maintenance of which the ulcer may reoccur. Having a nutritious diet and avoiding fatty food difficult to digest can help to cure peptic ulcers. It is often heard that milk is a good choice for ulcer patients, but it has turned out to be a myth.

Intake of milk can only help in providing temporary relief by coating the stomach lining, and gradually stimulates the stomach to produce more acid and digestive juices, hence causing more harm than cure.

As they say, prevention is better than cure therefore it is important that one should watch out for what one eats and indulge in fat rich items only occasionally.