So in reference to stomach ulcers, they're relatively rare in today's world compared to previous times, and especially in reference to gastritis. But perhaps 10% of folks in the US populations may have some form of, of a stomach ulcer, and this could be from a very small or shallow, ulcer to a larger, more frank ulceration. Part of the reason why gastric ulcers may appear to have receded in their appearance in the u s population is because of the types of medications that we use which are very potent to treat them. And we give folks these medications to help prevent ulcers and to cure them more effectively.
The way that you can prevent yourself from getting an ulcer is number one, avoiding the medications that can lead to ulcers, such as taking a significant amount of NSAIDs. Other things that you can do is make sure that your diet is compliant with a non ulcer producing diet, which means something that decreases the production of acid in your stomach. Also not putting yourself in an environment where you're under a significant amount of stress or lack of sleep or lack of nutrition. These can all lead to changes in the Mucosa and changes which can lead to ulcer disease.
Ulcer disease is one of those disorders that definitely has a high recurrence rate. Depending on the etiology to your ulceration, if someone's ulcerations were secondary to NSAID use, and if the patient once again, goes back to using a significant amount of NSAIDs, you run the risk of having a recurrence of your ulcers as well. That's why lifestyle changes in these patients are lifelong in order to maintain them, in order to reduce the risk of recurrence.
There can be some complications, especially in reference to ulcers where patient's appetite may decrease, their weight may decrease. If that ulcer erodes and hits a blood vessel, they can have significant bleeding, which may require endoscopic therapy, where scope is passed through the mouth to the stomach, let's say, and the ulcer is treated locally with either a thermal heating device or a clip or chemical injection. In rare cases, surgery might be required. But the things to keep in mind is that you can do a lot by watching your diet. If you have certain dyspeptic symptoms, it may be appropriate to be on a trial of antacid medicines for short period of time, but if you notice that your symptoms are prolonged, especially if they're in existence for two weeks, you should definitely let your healthcare provider know so that you can be appropriately evaluated and treated.
One thing in particular I would want to mention that I think is very important in reference to ulcer disease is that you know, you have blood vessels in every portion of your body. That includes your stomach. And if you have an ulcer, which is like a cut or a sore and it erodes or if it hits a blood vessel, naturally the blood vessel can bleed. It could be a circumstance where the blood vessel is, there's just a slight erosion and so person may lose blood. It's very small amount and that can go on for an extended period of time resulting in anemia or low blood count. The patient may or may not complain of pain. And we actually see this more so let's say in older individuals. And you may ask, well, why is that older person presents with an ulcer but yet they don't really have the classic abdominal pain? Well, think about it. All right, What do we know? Older persons have a tendency to have arthritis or back pain. And so they take those NSAIDs, or anti-inflammatory medications or if they have to take aspirin for their heart. And we've mentioned that those medications can cause those ulcerations, but what else do we know about aspirin, Motrin, Aleve, et Cetera? They're used to treat pain. Now it's no wonder why a person could be consuming aspirin, Motrin, Aleve, et Cetera, developing ulcer, but yet they don't complain of classic paid because you're actually taking a medication that treats pain.
Now, in reference to financial issues, as one of the nice things about healthcare here in our country. A number of these products, these proton pump inhibitors such as prilosec or the H2 blockers, the less potent but still effective agents such as Tagamet, Pepcid and so on, can be purchased over the counter and used appropriately according to your healthcare provider's instruction.
Now, sometimes patients will come in and they'll say, well, gee, you know, my father had an ulcer, and his father had an ulcer. Are ulcers hereditary? And the answer is there can be a hereditary component and or form of ulcer disease in families. But not necessarily. I mean, the person may represent what we call an index case, they may be the only person. Or it may be because they're taking certain types of NSAIDs or anti-inflammatory medications because they have issues with arthritis or back pain and this type of thing. And let's say their parents or siblings didn't have to take those kinds of medications, et cetera. And so they don't develop ulcers.
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