Know how to spot stomach ulcers and what to do about them

The old myth and wives-tale that ulcers are caused by stress and diet has been debunked by modern medicine. Instead, doctors today know that these painful sores that develop in the stomach, esophagus, and the top part of your small intestine are caused by infections caused by bacteria and even prescriptions.
So now that a light has been shed on a major shadow covering this painful condition - you can learn what causes ulcers, and how to treat them properly. 
What causes ulcers to form?
While we know now that ulcers are the result of an infection - a single cause for them has yet to be identified. WebMD says doctors do know that ulcers are the end result of an imbalance in your digestive fluids. But, there are some conditions and factors that can increase your risk for developing ulcers, including:
- Use of painkillers called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like: aspirin, naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprosyn, and others), ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, some types of Midol, among others). 
- Excess acid production in the stomach
- Excessive alcohol drinking 
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- Serious illness
- Radiation treatment to the area where ulcers appear (stomach, esophagus, small intestine)
How do I know if I have an ulcer?
The symptoms of an ulcer according to the Mayo Clinic include:
- Burning pain that's only worsened by stomach acid coming in contact with it
- Burning that is felt from your belly-button up to your breast bone
- Burning that's worse when your stomach is empty
- Flares at night
- Temporarily relieved when eating certain foods, or by taking antacids 
- Flares that come and go every few days, or even weeks
But there are also severe signs of an ulcer - and if you have these you need to get medical attention right away:
- Vomiting of blood — which may appear red or black
- Dark blood in stools or stools that are black 
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Unexplained weight loss
- Changes in appetite
How do I treat an ulcer?
If you recognize these symptoms and your doctor diagnoses you with an ulcer, the first step might be to treat the infection that's caused the ulcer. Your doctor might also prescribe medications to block acid production so that you can have a less agitated ulcer, and promote healing. There's also a medication that can protect the lining of your stomach and small intestine - but this all depends on how the ulcer is affecting you and what will be your best personalized treatment. 
It's also important to note that most of the time, these treatments work. But sometimes your symptoms may persist. So don't let them go on - speak up and talk to your doctor right away if your ulcer doesn't seem to be healing.
Can I avoid an ulcer?
You can try an avoid an ulcer by eating and living healthy, not smoking, avoiding alcohol, and considering switching pain relievers that bother your stomach. But sometimes avoiding an ulcer is impossible due to medications, or underlying conditions or illnesses. 
Resources WebMD and Mayo Clinic
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