An ulcer in the upper gastrointestinal tract is a discontinuity, hole or sore in the surface lining of the stomach, duodenum or esophagus. When the acidic digestive juices in the stomach, come in contact with these ulcers, they aggravate further. Ulcers can erode the blood vessels, thereby causing bleeding which in turn leads to progressive weakening of the body. A bleeding ulcer goes unnoticed till it assumes a severe and dangerous form. That's why, it's essential that one is aware of its subtly developing symptoms. Statistics reveal that 1 in every 10 US citizens suffer from peptic ulcers.
Symptoms of Digestive Tract Ulcers
The fact that the loss of blood is internal, makes it difficult to identify and subsequently the ailment remains undiagnosed for a long time, in many cases. Here are some of the common symptoms of ulcers.
- Mild to severe abdominal pain
- Burning sensation in abdomen
- Frequent hunger pangs after a meal
- Lightheadedness when standing up quickly
- Inexplicable fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Blood in vomit
- Blood in stool
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Weight loss
Earlier, it was believed that excessive secretion of digestive acids and intake of beverages like tea and coffee, along with stress leads to ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract. However, actual research revealed something quite different. Ulcers in the stomach, duodenum and esophagus are caused by a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori). Other contributory factors include:
- Overdosing on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
- Chewing tobacco
- A rare disorder called Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, which causes tumor formation in pancreas could also lead to the formation of peptic ulcers.
While the treatment involves drug therapy, the affected individual should also follow certain precautionary measures. It would be best to avoid all the causative agents of peptic ulcers like smoking, excessive usage of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen to prevent a relapse of the condition.
Depending on the severity of the ulcer, a combined dose of antibiotics like amoxicillin, tetracycline or clarithromycin will be prescribed for a fortnight, to treat the bacterial infection. Pepto-Bismol may also be recommended for strengthening the antibacterial attack.
In case, the ulcers are the result of a NSAIDs overdose, proton pump inhibitors like esomeprazole, lansoprazole and omeprazole will be used along with the antibiotic medications. Surgery may be needed, if the ulcer has caused a tear in the gastrointestinal tissue. In most cases, administration of antibiotics, along with protein pump inhibitors cure patients completely.
On a concluding note, respect your body and appreciate the marvel of evolutionary ingenuity that it is. If you perceive your body that way, you will think twice before abusing it. Health is the greatest gift and a healthy lifestyle is the only way of appreciating this gift!
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.