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Many Types of Ulcers Exist With Different Causes

Ulcers are blisters found on the mucosal surfaces of the body, most prevalent along the gastrointestinal tract. The most common locations of ulcers in the body include the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum.

In the United States, the prevalence of ulcers is an estimated 4.6 million cases every year. In up to 80% of cases, people who have ulcers also have a Helicobacter pylori infection, which makes this bacterium the main culprit in most ulcer cases.

Contrary to popular belief, ulcers are not always the result of stress, although it may worsen the symptoms. Similarly, the pain associated with ulcers is not due to the food one consumes; instead, an empty stomach worsens the pain. In either case, not seeking treatment can have detrimental long-term effects, including severely hindering food digestion.

Types of Ulcers

There are several different types of ulcers. For one form, the subdivisions go further than that to include duodenal, stomach, and esophageal cases. Some ulcers are found on the stomach and small intestines' linings, while duodenal ulcers are found on the upper part of the small intestines. Esophageal ulcers are located along the esophagus lining and are associated with pain when swallowing and heartburn.

In most ulcer cases, symptoms include pain in the stomach and intestinal sections during or after meals. Pain during eating is associated with esophageal and stomach infections, while pain that comes after meals is associated with duodenal ulcers. Heartburns, nausea, and vomiting appear across the board of ulcer cases. Ulcers are often associated with internal bleeding, which may predispose one to more severe conditions such as anemias.

Causes of Ulcers

The most common cause of ulcers within the gastrointestinal tract is prior infection with helicobacter pylori bacterium. Long-term use of NSAIDs predisposes one to ulcers by suppressing the stomach's mechanism responsible for protection against the digestive acids in the stomach. Common NSAIDs as a variety of over the counter pain medications.

Other rare causes include the Zollinger-Ellison syndrome that causes excess acid production in the stomach. The Zollinger- Ellison Syndrome attributes to less than 1% of cases of ulcer disease.

Hyper-acidity related to lifestyle choices such as smoking or certain foods has also been linked with ulcers. Excess alcohol intake in addition to smoking and a generally unhealthy lifestyle predisposes one to gastric ulcers. Conditions such as stomach cancer may include ulcerations as part of the symptoms. Taking radiation therapy for most gastrointestinal malignancies may cause ulcers as a side effect.

Getting Treatment

Treatment of ulcers is widely available and easy to follow, provided that the correct diagnosis is made. Antibiotics that eliminate and reduce the bacterial load of Helicobacter pylori are recommended regimens to treat ulcers. An alternative approach will attempt to inhibit acid secretions in the stomach. Drugs that reduce acid secretions can also be administered. 

Medicines that protect gastric mucosal linings are available commercially and help preserve stomach acid action on the linings. For severe cases of ulcers, physicians may recommend a surgical intervention. Surgery is recommended when the patient has:

  • A gastric bleed.
  • Gastric perforation.
  • A persistent gastric ulcer that will not heal even on medicine use.
  • Persistent hyper-acidity.

The surgeon will either cut off the vagus nerve, responsible for stimulating acid production or surgically remove the whole ulcer. In gastric perforation cases, the surgeon may mend this by patching the ulcerative wound using tissue from another part of the gastrointestinal tract. Gastric bleeding is an emergency case, and it is remedied by cutting off or tying the bleeding artery or ulcer.

Prevention of gastric ulcers involves:

  • Incorporating a healthy diet that comprises green leafy vegetables, fruits, and cereals.
  • Use of probiotic medicine or probiotics foods especially when on long term use of antibiotics.
  • Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol and quit smoking.
  • Limit the use of NSAIDS.

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