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I'm not the type to get ulcers. I give them.

— Former N.Y. Mayor Ed Koch

A few months back, I started feeling yucky. I tried to ferret out information using my symptoms but got nowhere. I had been experiencing headaches, nausea, feeling faint and often got sick after eating. It was not heartburn or acid reflux.

I told Mom my symptoms, and she thought it might be an ulcer. I went to the medical clinic and discussed things with the doctor. She must have thought it was a peptic ulcer and prescribed omeprazole. More on that drug later.

I didn't know the actual causes and symptoms of an ulcer. My self-diagnosis went from heart attack to stroke and back. I realized it was time to become more informed.

According to information from The Mayo Clinic, peptic ulcers are open sores. There are gastric ulcers that occur inside the stomach and duodenal ulcers that occur on the inside of the upper portion of the small intestine or duodenum.

Peptic ulcers occur when acid in the digestive tract eats away at the inner surface of the stomach or small intestine. The tract is coated with a mucous layer that protects against acid, but if the acid increases or the protective layer decreases, an ulcer can form.

There are varying levels of symptoms, with the most common being burning stomach pain, which I really didn't have, nausea, a feeling of fullness, fatty food intolerance and heartburn. Less often there can be more severe signs like:

■ Tarry stools

■ Feeling faint

■ Unexplained weight loss

■ Appetite changes

■ Trouble breathing

Those symptoms should be a reason to get to the doctor.

Nearly three-quarters of people with peptic ulcers do not have symptoms. Or their symptoms go away after eating or taking antacids, so a connection isn't made that there could be a bigger problem than just a little heartburn.

Common causes include:

■ A bacterium. Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) lives in the mucous layer that protects the tissues that line the stomach and small intestine from acid. Often it causes no problems but can cause inflammation and produce an ulcer.

It's not clear how the bacterium spreads, but it can be transmitted by close person-to-person contact like kissing, or food and water.

■ Regular use of aspirin or certain over-the-counter and prescription pain medications called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They can irritate or inflame the lining of the stomach or small intestine. Those include ibuprofen, naproxen sodium and ketoprofen. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is not a culprit.

■ Other medications taken along with NSAIDs, like steroids, anticoagulants and low-dose aspirin.

Risk factors can include smoking and alcohol, as well as untreated stress and spicy foods, which don't cause the ulcers but can make symptoms worse.

Left untreated, peptic ulcers can result in internal bleeding, infection and obstruction of the digestive tract. Doctors recommend we protect ourselves from infection and use caution with the pain medications we take.

As I said, I was prescribed omeprazole, and it has worked wonders. My symptoms are gone.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine's MedlinePlus, it is used to treat symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which the stomach produces too much acid, and for ulcers. I take a prescription capsule, but there are over-the-counter versions that treat recurring heartburn.

PARK IT

A couple of months ago I wrote about van accessible parking and a company that makes sticky notes to put on the cars of handicap parking scofflaws. The company website is Braunability.com.

The notes read, "You put me in a bit of a tight spot. These blue stripes save me the space I need to get in and out of my accessible vehicle. Without that extra space, I'm stuck. Please remember that next time."

The company sent me four of the pads, which have about 20 to 25 sticky notes. I will send a pad to the first four folks who email with their interest and address.

Email me at:

rboggs@arkansasonline.com

Style on 10/28/2019

Print Headline: Peptic ulcers are all about the acids

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