An ulcer is a type of open, painful wound. Typically ulcers occur in the stomach or the upper part of the small intestine. Ulcers that form in the duodenum are termed as duodenal ulcers. Peptic ulcers form in the gastrointestinal tract. Esophageal ulcers occur in the esophagus. Peptic ulcers are very common in nature. For ages, ulcers were believed to be caused by stress and spicy foods. They were considered as a chronic condition. Besides, it was believed that ulcers could not be cured.
In the year 1982, Australian pathologist Robin Warren discovered that ulcers occur when colonies of bacteria grow inside the stomach of chronic patients. Later Barry Marshall of the University of Western Australia identified the bacterium species to be Helicobacter pylori. Both these doctors were awarded Nobel Prize for their discovery. This notorious bacterium weakens thick mucous layers present in the small intestines and stomach. Hydrochloric acid leaks into the tissues. This causes swelling, redness and heat. Long-term usage of anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin, naproxen, ibuprofen & ketoprofen and prescription drugs for arthritis may also cause ulcers. Nicotine in cigarettes is considered as one of the major causes of ulcers. Smoking stimulates the formation of excess acid in the stomach. Alcohol abuse can wear down the lining of the stomach and intestines. Negative stress can also result in ulcers.
The symptoms to look for are:
Doctors may ask for symptoms before doing pathological tests. An endoscopy or a special X-ray may be prescribed to diagnose your digestive tract. Blood and breath tests are recommended to confirm the presence of H. pylori. Biopsy of the stomach lining is performed to test for H. pylori.
Triple therapy is highly recommended to eliminate H. pylori. Two antibiotics and bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol) are prescribed for 2 weeks in succession. Antacids are prescribed for more than 2 months. These medications help to control acid formation in the stomach and prevent further weakening of stomach lining. H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors are prescribed to reduce the amount of acid in the stomach. Medications must be continued for atleast 8 weeks. Most gastric and peptic ulcers get healed within this time. If initial symptoms revert back after completing medicine course, you must contact your doctor immediately. He may prescribe a different medicine or alter the dosage of medicine. During the recovery period, you must avoid anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen. For speedy recovery, you must avoid tea, mustard seeds, decaffeinated coffee, meat products, chocolate, black pepper, alcohol, chili powder, and nutmeg. These foods and drinks may make your ulcer worse. Moreover, you must try to consume small, frequent meals when you encounter pain. A balanced diet helps in fast healing.