Ulcers are basically unhealed sores. They can be on the skin, in the mouth, or even around the eye. Most people, however, associate ulcers with the stomach. These types of ulcers (or any ulcer, for that matter) can cause a great deal of discomfort, resulting in almost constant pain. In some cases, simply controlling the pain and ignoring the signs is enough. With a stomach ulcer, however, this is not particularly wise. The reason is that there are many problems associated with stomach ulcers that can be serious. Some ulcers even eat all the way through the stomach lining (called perforated ulcers), and this can be fatal.
The myth that ulcers are caused by stress or coffee or some other non-living thing is a myth. It has recently been discovered that ulcers are actually caused by a kind of bacteria. Certain conditions can aggravate the ulcer and create more ideal conditions for the bacteria to thrive. Stress can certainly aggravate your ulcer, but it is not the root cause. Other things, such as smoking, can exacerbate the problem as well. And aspirin is also a contributing factor to the continuance of ulcers. While aspirin can be helpful on occasion (as long as the doctor has cleared you for it), it is something that can be very irritating to your stomach lining and further encourage an ulcer.
The symptoms of a stomach ulcer include acute pain that comes in spurts (similar to heartburn or acid reflux). The pain often comes between meals or in the middle of the night. The pain may also be a gnawing discomfort that affects the middle or upper abdomen. Additionally, in some cases an ulcer can manifest itself when you notice bleeding when you make a bowel movement. Bleeding through the bowels can indicate a bleeding ulcer, which can be deadly if the ulcer spreads in size to reach a blood vessel and causes a hemorrhage.
Taking antacids can bring temporary relief. If, however, you find that you are constantly taking these to bring relief, there may be a bigger problem than mere acid reflux. If you feel that you are in a constant state of stomach pain and heartburn, you might want to see a doctor about testing you for an ulcer. If you are uncomfortable going in just for the ulcer, make sure that you talk about it during your yearly physical check-up. Or you can ask to schedule a routine test, such as cholesterol screening, at the same time. If you experience feelings and symptoms associated with a perforated ulcer or with a bleeding ulcer, though, you should seek help immediately, as these are life threatening in a short period of time.
Ulcers are not pleasant things. However, if you get it checked out, and you do have an ulcer, there are plenty of ways to take care of it. Since the bacteria that causes ulcers has been identified, it is possible to cure an ulcer with medication, rather than relying on surgery. And this makes getting rid of stomach ulcers easier than it was before.