Belly Busters (Stomach Ulcers)

They can be painful, but stomach ulcers are easy to treat.

A stomach ulcer is a break in or damage to the protective lining of the stomach. This lining is there to protect your stomach from the strong acid and gastric juices that are used to digest your food.

Up until recently, it was believed that stress, smoking and a poor diet were the main causes of stomach ulcers. However, thanks to two Australian scientists, it is now known that stomach ulcers are most commonly causes by a bacterium known as Helicobacter pylori.

Other risk factors include taking too much aspirin or ibuprofen and smoking.

The usual symptom of a stomach ulcer is a burning or knife-like pain in the upper part of the stomach, just below your breast bone. This usually occurs when your stomach is empty. It may feel like you have indigestion.

Other symptoms include nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, weight loss and light-headedness.

If the ulcer bleeds you may have more serious symptoms, such as blood in your vomit or faeces (poo). On very rare occasions, an ulcer will go through the stomach wall. This is extremely serious and requires emergency surgery.

If you think you may have an ulcer, you should see your doctor. They can diagnose an ulcer either by an X-ray or by something called an endoscopy, which involves inserting a little tube with a camera on it into the stomach so the doctor can have a look around.

Most ulcers are easily treatable with medication, and only very rarely require more drastic treatment such as surgery.

According to a report published in the Medical Journal of Australia, Indigenous Australians are almost four times more likely than the rest of the population to carry the Helicobacter pylori bacteria that cause stomach ulcers.

The report claims that poor hygiene is the main reason why 91 per cent of people in rural Aboriginal communities carry the bacteria.


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