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Ulcers: The Basics

  • All
  • Overview
  • Symptoms & Diagnosis
  • Causes & Treatment
  • Gastritis
  • Diabetic Ulcers

What is an ulcer?

By definition, an ulcer is a loss of the mucosa of the lining of any type of tissue. Any type of inflammation, irritation, or mucosal damage can lead to a loss of mucosal tissue which can cause erosion into an artery or a vessel causing bleeding and/or pain.

How common are ulcers?

Ulcers are extremely common in any age range, from young patients to older patients.

Are ulcers dangerous?

Ulcers can be dangerous if they are left untreated. Not treating an ulcer can lead to very severe complications. If the ulcer gets large or deep, and it erodes into a vessel, that can lead to a very life-threatening bleed. If the ulcer gets even larger, and it subsequently leads to a perforation or a hole in the bowel, it could lead to significant complications, and even death.

How do you prevent ulcers?

The most important way that you can prevent an ulcer is avoiding the medications that can lead to ulcers, such as taking a significant amount of NSAIDs. You can eat a non-ulcer producing diet, which means eating things that decrease the production of acid in your stomach. Create an environment where you avoid a significant amount of stress, lack of sleep, or lack of nutrition. These can all prevent the changes in the mucosa which can lead to ulcer disease.

What does an ulcer feel like?

Symptoms of an ulcer include nausea and significant acute abdominal pain that progressively gets worse over a few days. Other common symptoms include irritation, loss of appetite, and reflux syndromes.

How do I know if I have an ulcer?

Common symptoms of ulcers are pain, nausea, irritation, and loss of appetite. The presence of an ulcer can be confirmed by visiting your physician. He or she may order a breath test to evaluate for H. pylori, stool tests, or an endoscopy. An endoscopy is when a camera looks inside the throat, esophagus, and stomach for any ulcerations, inflammation, or bacteria that can lead to ulcer formation.

Do I need to see a doctor for an ulcer?

If you are experiencing any of the common symptoms of an ulcer, you should be evaluated by a physician. If an ulcer is not caught early, it could lead to further complications such as bleeding.

How is an ulcer diagnosed?

If a patient has common symptoms of an ulcer, his or her doctor may order a breath test, stool test, or endoscopy to confirm the diagnosis of an ulcer.

What type of doctor should I see for an ulcer?

A patient who is experiencing symptoms of an ulcer should be evaluated by a gastroenterologist.

How is an ulcer treated?

The majority of ulcers are treated with either endoscopic or medical treatment. Very few ulcerations end up requiring surgery. Most ulcerations heal within four to six weeks. Peptic ulcer disease can definitely be treated with medication and can be cured if the patient is compliant with therapy.

What are the main causes of ulcers?

Patients that are very stressed, don’t take care of themselves, don’t sleep well, don’t eat well, and don’t exercise are at great risk for developing ulcers. Obese patients and patients with poor nutritional status are also at risk of forming ulcerations.

Can you get an ulcer from stress?

Some ulcers can be stress-induced, meaning they are caused by high levels of stress. If you lead a lifestyle filled with stress, you should definitely exercise more and try to find coping skills in order to reduce the stress.

What medications help treat ulcers?

There are multiple medications that a person can take to treat symptoms of ulcer disease. Antacids are the most common over-the-counter medications that patients take. You can also take medications like H2 blockers that help decrease the acid production of the stomach. Very common medications are proton pump inhibitors that doctors can prescribe in order to reduce the acidity of the stomach and allow for healing of the lining of the mucosa.

What is H. pylori?

One of the most common causes of peptic ulcer disease is H. pylori. H. pylori is a bacteria that is relatively common, and a majority of people walking out on the streets can have it. But when you have that bacteria in your stomach, you run the risk of forming ulcers, which then can bleed.

What is gastritis?

Gastritis is an inflammation of the stomach. It can be due to a bacteria called H. pylori, which can cause a chronic type of inflammation in the lining of the stomach.

What are the symptoms of gastritis?

Patients often complain of abdominal bloating, fullness, and gnawing pain. In some instances, the discomfort may be such that the individual doesn’t want to consume food or they may even vomit.

What causes gastritis?

Excessive usage of NSAIDs, alcohol consumption, and caffeine consumption are all common causes of gastritis.

How do I know if I have gastritis?

A breath test or blood test can be used to confirm the presence of H. pylori. Stomach or intestinal biopsies can also be used to confirm the presence of gastritis.

How can I prevent gastritis?

Gastritis may be prevented by limiting NSAID usage, alcohol consumption, and caffeine consumption.

What is a diabetic ulcer?

About 50% of diabetics will develop neuropathy and will not be able to feel pain in their feet. This neuropathy can lead to development of a diabetic foot ulcer, or a hole in the foot.

How is a diabetic ulcer different from other ulcers?

Diabetic foot ulcers occur in diabetics, due to the loss of sensation in their feet. This loss of sensation often leads to the development of ulcers. Other ulcers commonly are found in the stomach and intestines and are caused by excessive NSAID usage, alcohol consumption, and caffeine consumption.

How do you treat diabetic ulcers?

Diabetic ulcers will often be treated with antibiotics and debridement (removal of tissue) of the wound. In severe cases, amputation may be necessary.

How do you test for diabetic ulcers?

Your doctor may do something called a circulation test, where he or she will evaluate your foot pulses. Your doctor may also assess your skin, searching for a wound or anything out of the ordinary. Your doctor may also check your sensation using different tools such as a tuning fork. Doppler tests are used to listen to the sounds of blood circulating in your foot.

What are common symptoms of diabetic ulcers?

Lack of sensation in the foot is a common symptom of diabetic foot ulcers. With a lack of sensation, the person cannot feel sores on the foot, which may lead them to becoming worse and worse.

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