Am I suffering from ulcers?

The most common symptom of ulcers is a burning sensation or pain in the area between your chest and belly button. Net.

I have been experiencing excruciating stomach pain whenever I eat, especially foods that contain carbohydrates, and I was told that I could be developing ulcers. What are the common signs and symptoms of ulcers? How long does it take for a stomach ulcer to heal on its own? Claude

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Dear Claude,

You have not specified whether the pain is cramp-like or burning in nature. Which part of the abdomen does it occur? Does it occur only after meals or is it unrelated to meals? Is there associated nausea and or vomiting?

Pain of a stomach ulcer usually occurs after meals and is located in the upper abdomen. It is burning or cutting in nature. There may also be nausea with or without bilious vomiting. Pain of a duodenal ulcer (proximal part of small intestine) usually occurs when one is hungry and is relieved by eating food. Depending on the size and location of the ulcer, pain can be mild or severe.  Ulcer is caused by stress, use of alcohol, very spicy food, excess of caffeinated products, use of pain killers and even infection by H.pylori, a bacterium. Bleeding from a peptic ulcer and perforation are two potential life threatening infections, hence, it is important to prevent it and treat it.

Preventive measures include avoiding alcohol, caffeine, very spicy food, total relaxation. Taking small frequent meals is useful as compared to a single heavy meal.

Diagnosis of these ulcers is made by endoscopy, where a tube is put through the nose and stomach and duodenum are   visualised in detail.  Its location, number and size are known. H. pylori infection is diagnosed by a serological test done in the blood, stool test for antibodies, and urea breath test.  Cure is possible with drugs.

Abdominal pain can also be due to infections of the intestine, where the pain is colicky. Infection can be due to bacteria, protozoa or parasites. They gain entry in the alimentary canal through poor food hygiene. Along with the abdominal pain, one can have associated nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and fever, one or more of these symptoms. The causative infection can easily be diagnosed by microscopic examination of the stool and treatment is by antibiotics.

Taking a heavy meal, full of carbohydrates and or fats puts a load on the digestive system causing pain, after eating. Allergy to any food item can cause abdominal pain after eating it. Other associated symptoms like skin rashes, cold, cough, breathing trouble, may be or may not be present. One can try to exclude one food item from the daily diet and include it after two or three days. If abdominal pain occurs after consuming some food substance and one feels comfortable without eating it, that substance can be presumed to be causing an allergy.

Excruciating abdominal pain can occur due to some acute inflammation of an abdominal organ (for example the acute cholecystitis, acute pancreatitis, and etcetera) which would need urgent surgical intervention.

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