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Ulcer question

Kevin asks: Can stress actually cause the formation of a stomach ulcer? How can the emotional state of stress cause physical damage to an internal organ!?

How does one know if he/she has an ulcer? What can be done?


The answer to the first question is a little complicated, stress can in fact contribute to the formation of stomach ulcers, the reasons being that stress a) decreases the body's immune response to the bacteria primarily responsible for the formation of ulcers and b) stress can contribute to higher levels of acid in the stomach. The basic formation of most gastric ulcers starts with a weakening of the lining of the stomach by excess acid. With the lining damaged the bacteria goes to work on the exposed portion of stomach tissue and voila gastric ulcer.

The doctor I spoke to told me that, the most common indicator of a gastric ulcer is a persistant gnawing that often gets relieved by eating. A lot of people will gain weight in the initial stages of an ulcer because they can reduce this gastric discomfort by eating. Later this discomfort will become sharp pain accompanied by blood in vomit or stool, if the ulcer becomes perforated. Treatment requires a trip to the doctor and prevention is hard. If the symptoms present themselves (discomfort) take an antacid and see if it gets better. If conditions don't improve in a week go on in to the doctor. If there is ever blood in your stool or vomit, it is a very good idea to make an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible.

Comments

It is important to remember that the single biggest cause of stomach ulcers is the bacterium Helicobacter Pylori. I agree that stress may add to the cause as well.

90% of ulcer sufferers show a presence of this bacterium and only your doctor can test for this.

From what I understand about the current theory regarding ulcers, Gavin is partially correct. However, the idea that ulcers were caused soley by the bacteria has been brought into question by the 10% of patients whom show no presence of H. Pylori. It was also shown recently that this bacteria is present in a good proportion of the healthy (non-ulcer-bearing) population. This information indicates that the bacterium itself does not directly cause ulcer formation and requires some physiological catalyst. The current majority opinion is outlined in the post, an interaction of stress and an opportunistic bacteria.

Its important to remember that medicine is a constantly developing field and it is possible for multiple opinions regarding the same disease/condition to exist. Thanks for the post its always nice to find a reason to do more research.