Healthy Living gets the hard facts about ulcers
Nausea and vomiting are early signs of ulcers. This condition is mainly caused by chronic infections or the use of anti-inflammatory medications. Healthy Living this week found out that the infection is transmitted in many ways.
Marleni Cuellar, Reporting
Ulcers are commonly associated with excruciating pain and discomfort when eating certain foods. Many street theories exist as to what is the cause for stomach ulcers. Gastroenterologist, Dr. Mark Musa, defines what really causes ulcers and what we can do about them.
Dr. Mark Musa, Gastroenterologist
“An ulcer is a defect or a break in the lining of the stomach and it goes deep in the muscle layer so it leaves a crater in the stomach almost like a deep sore on the lining of the stomach. The two main causes is a chronic infection with a bacteria called the helicobacter pylori or h-pylori and this leads to chronic inflammation of the stomach and eventually ulcers form. The other main forms are medications and the common medications that do it are the anti inflammatory medications like ibuprofen, naproxen that we use for muscle and joint pain.”
For years, people have believed that stomach ulcers are caused by untimely eating, weight factors, spicy food, and stress. While these are definite aggravators for ulcers the main culprit as was recently discovered is an infection.
Dr. Mark Musa
“Twenty years ago before they realized that h pylori played such a huge role in peptic ulcers, it used to be thought of that people with type a personalities or a bit anxious or driven use to have a higher incidence of ulcers but that in many studies has been disproven. If you look at it in developing countries like Belize you’d probably have a prevalence like eighty percent of the adults having H Pylori, you would probably have an incidence of eighty percent of adults don’t have stomach problems so other factors awake the bacteria to cause damage to the stomach. So out of that eighty percent maybe fifteen percent would go on to develop gastritis, inflammation of the stomach and ulcers. It’s a very common infection and we don’t know exactly but it is transmitted multiple ways through contaminated food, water with close contact with people so more of a chronic infection; it’s not like your common gastroenteritis.”
Like gastroenteritis though, nausea and vomiting is one symptom associated with stomach ulcers. Other symptoms include heartburn, bloating and most commonly a burning sensation in the upper middle abdomen below the chest bone. More worrying symptoms, the kind that means get to your doctor ASAP includes:
Dr. Mark Musa
“Prolonged loss of appetites, you start losing weight, signs of bleeding either found incidentally if they are anemic or the patient may actually vomit blood or notice that their stool has become black or dark because four to five percent of stomach ulcers may be cancerous.”
Cancer would be the worst case scenario but other complications include bleeding and perforation of stomach. Diagnosis is best conducted through an endoscopy when the case is already severe some forms of treatment can be applied during this process as well.
Dr. Mark Musa
“For younger people, less than forty, if you’re symptoms are stable it needs investigating, but there is one approach where you do what is called test and treat where there are other ways you can test for the h-pylori. You can do a blood test and if the H-Pylori is present you can treat it.”
Most importantly is that you seek treatment or further investigation should you still maintain symptoms of ulcers.