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Bruce Springsteen’s peptic ulcer: What are causes, symptoms and how young people can prevent it

American singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen has postponed his September shows, citing doctor’s advice that the stress of a tour could worsen his peptic ulcer. Although he developed a severe manifestation of the disease at 74, most 24X7 professionals are troubled by this condition. What you need to know is that it is preventable, curable and is often compounded by our bad habits.

WHAT IS PEPTIC ULCER DISEASE?

Peptic ulcer disease is characterised by open sores in the lining of the stomach and the first part of the small intestine (where the stomach and small intestine meet). These ulcers are formed because of the hyperacidity and a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H Pylori) which stays in the stomach instead of being flushed out. The most common symptoms are burning stomach pain, heartburn, nausea, bloating and belching.

WHAT ARE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS?

One of the most common manifestations of an ulcer is experiencing pain after eating, although occasionally, the pain may subside after a meal. This discomfort typically occurs in the upper abdomen and may even radiate to the back, persisting continuously. Another prevalent symptom of an ulcer is bleeding; at times, these ulcers can erode blood vessels, leading to severe bleeding, which may manifest as vomiting, change in stool colour and weight loss.

WHERE COULD YOU BE GETTING THE H.PYLORI BACTERIA FROM?

As mentioned, it may be caused by the bacteria called H. Pylori, which comes from contaminated foods, primarily because of hygiene issues in handling, preparation and preservation. Some of the vegetables prone to contamination include raw vegetables like lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and spinach, which may contain traces of faecal matter and chemicals if not washed and disinfected thoroughly. The same applies to unwashed fruits. Undercooked or raw meat and poultry as well as contaminated water could be sources. Faecal matter or bodily fluids from infected individuals could be easily transmitted too. Other than hygiene, cooking is important. The H. Pylori bacteria can survive up to 15 minutes in high heat (95 degrees and above). So, the food has to be thoroughly cooked.

CAN STRESS CAUSE MY ULCER?

Contrary to common belief, stress and spicy foods don’t cause ulcers, though they can certainly worsen the symptoms. Alcohol use, even at moderate levels, can also exacerbate the problem. Among 24X7 professionals, ulcer is the result of hyperacidity, which is the cumulative effect of work stress, performance pressure, irregular sleep and diet hygiene. Singly, none of these factors can trigger ulcers. Of course, those with chronic kidney disease and chronic liver disease are more vulnerable to infection.

PAIN RELIEVERS THE REAL PROBLEM

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The long-term use of anti-inflammatory pain relievers like aspirin or ibuprofen thins out the lining of the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract and may complicate symptoms. So do not consume painkillers without a doctor’s prescription.

DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT

These ulcers can be diagnosed with a simple test called upper GI endoscopy. So if you have pain in the upper abdomen, blood in the vomit and notice a change in stool, you should undergo an endoscopy, which will detect the peptic ulcer in the stomach or duodenum. Once diagnosed, the ulcer can be treated with simple medication which is to be continued for four to six weeks. There is no surgery required.

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Sometimes rare complications can occur if the ulcer is left untreated. It can cause perforation in the intestine and leaks which require immediate surgery.

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