An ulcer is a crater-like sore on the skin or mucous membrane.
1. Ulcers
There is no clear evidence to suggest that the stress of modern life or a steady diet of fast food causes ulcers in the stomach and small intestine, but they are nonetheless common in our society About one out of every 10 Americans will suffer from the burning, gnawing abdominal pain of a peptic or gastric ulcer at some point in life.
Peptic ulcers are holes or breaks in the protective lining of the duodenum the upper part of the small intestine or the stomach areas that come into contact with stomach acids and enzymes. Duodenal ulcers are more common than stomach ulcers. Comparatively rare are esophageal ulcers, which form in the esophagus or swallowing tube and are often a result of exposure to medications, like certain antibiotics or anti inflammatories, or alcohol abuse.
2. Causes
No single cause has been found for ulcers. However, it is now clear that an ulcer is the end result of an imbalance between digestive fluids in the stomach and duodenum. Most ulcers are caused by an infection with a type of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori H. pylori .
3. Symptoms
An ulcer may or may not have symptoms. When symptoms occur, they may include
A gnawing or burning pain in the middle or upper stomach between meals or at night Bloating
Nausea or vomiting
In severe cases, symptoms can include
Dark or black stool due to bleeding
Vomiting blood that can look like coffee grounds
Weight loss
Severe pain in the mid to upper abdomen
4. Prevention
To prevent the spread of bacteria and reduce risk of bacterial infection, wash your hands with soap and water on a regular basis and make sure that all food is properly cleaned and cooked thoroughly.
To prevent ulcers caused by NSAIDs, stop using these medications if possible or limit their use. In you need to take NSAIDs, be sure to follow the recommended dosage and avoid alcohol while taking these medications.
Certain lifestyle changes can also help prevent ulcers from forming. Limiting alcohol consumption, avoiding tobacco products, and properly managing stress can all contribute to a healthy stomach lining.
5. Diagnosis And Tests
Doctors most commonly diagnose ulcers using endoscopy, Swaminath said. This involves taking a camera directly into the stomach to look for ulcers and taking biopsies to make sure the ulcers arent really cancer or something else, he said.
A breath test consists of drinking a glass of liquid that contains a radioactive substance. This substance reacts with H. pylori so that when an individual with stomach ulcers blows into a bag, the breath will contain the radioactive carbon in the form of carbon dioxide.

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