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Gastro Intestinal Ulcers

Ulcers are wounds produced on the mucous surface or skin surface caused by erosion of tissues. Those ulcers that are associated with the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) are called Gastro Intestinal ulcers. There are 3 main types of ulcers. They are gastric ulcers, esophageal ulcers and duodenal ulcers. Gastric ulcers are those that affect the interior of the stomach. Esophageal ulcers are observed in the food pipe (esophagus) from throat to stomach. The upper portion of the small intestine is called duodenum. Duodenal ulcers occur in this area and are the most common form of ulcers. Another category of ulcer is also known as Meckel's diverticulum. This occurs during the time of birth as a slight bulge in the small intestine. This happens to the most common form of GI tract malformation.

Ulcers can also be classified as type I, II, III, IV and V. Type I ulcer is seen in stomach portions. Type II ulcer on the other hand, is experienced in the body along with duodenal ulcers. This type is related to the over-secretion of acids. Pyloric ulcers are the type 3 ulcers. Type IV ulcers are gastro-esophageal ulcers. Type V ulcers can affect the entire stomach. Reaction of NSAIDS like aspirin can cause this type of ulcers.

The ulcers can have many symptoms. The commonly seen symptoms are as follows:

  • Pain in the abdomen: The pain is mainly felt in the upper abdominal region. More intensity is observed after a couple of hours after having lunch.
  • Blood vomiting: The condition is also known as hematemesis. The bleeding can be due to esophageal damage or direct blood flow from the ulcer.
  • False sensation of a full stomach. Bloating may also be present.
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite.

Ulcers are observed to happen when the surface of body portions erode away. The organs are composed of cells that are delicate. However, the acids of a sufficiently high concentration (low pH factor) are required to digest the consumed food. Direct contact of these acids with the delicate cells can result in the damage to the cells. It is the mucosal lining that prevents this direct contact. In the case of ulcers, this direct contact happens, leading to serious organ damage.

The reasons as to why this happen is described below:

Bacterial action: Mucosal layer is a suitable thriving place for helicobacter pylori (h.pylori) bacteria. It is probable for the h.pylori is cause inflammation in the lining. The inflammation can lead to ulcer. The means by which this bacteria spread is not well known. It is supposed to be spread through close contact like osculation, through water & food etc.

Frequent & continuous use of pain killers: Some medicines like NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) are believed to cause inflammation or irritation of the stomach or small intestine lining. Some of these medications are aspirin, naproxen, ibuprofen etc.

Ulcers are common in those people that take in these medications and those prescribed for osteoarthritis.

Different imaging tests have to be conducted in order to diagnose ulcer.

Test for bacterial presence: For detecting the presence of h.pylori bacteria, different tests can be taken. These tests are breath test, blood test or a stool test. Endoscopy of the GI tract is yet another diagnostic procedure commonly employed. X-rays of the upper part of digestive system can also be done.

Non-surgical treatment of ulcers includes medications for h.pylori destruction, for blocking or neutralizing the acid production etc.