06 August 2008

Bleeding ulcers serious

Sources have confirmed that TV personality Amor Vittone has been admitted to hospital due to a bleeding stomach ulcer. We take a look at this painful condition and its risks.

Sources have confirmed that popular singer and TV personality Amor Vittone has been admitted to hospital due to a bleeding stomach ulcer, according to Beeld.

While it's still not certain in which hospital she's being treated - and what the exact cause of her illness is - more information is expected to be released later today.

If Vittone does indeed have a bleeding ulcer, she needs immediate treatment, and depending on the size and depth of the ulcer, she might even have to undergo surgery.

Ulcers of this kind, which are usually referred to as peptic ulcers, are sores in the protective lining of the digestive tract that develops when the lining is damaged. It can occur in the lining of the stomach, the intestines or the throat.

"Once the patient arrives at the hospital, doctors would have to do a gastroscopy to asses the bleeding," says Dr Abdul Cariem, a Cape Town gastroenterologist. This procedure involves a slim, flexible, lighted tube being inserted through the mouth to examine the stomach.

"In most cases the bleeding has stopped by the time the patient arrives at the hospital," says Cariem. But in cases where it hasn't, doctors would have to inject the ulcer with a mixture of adrenaline and saline, or clip the bleeding blood vessel, he adds.

Depending on the amount of blood that's been lost, the patient can be discharged within 24 hours. In more severe cases the patient might have to stay in hospital for a few days for observation.

"Proton pump inhibitors will raise the patient's acid Ph levels, and within four or five days the pain will subside," says Cariem.

Causes of stomach ulcers
Until the mid-1980s, it was thought that ulcers were caused by stress, a diet rich in fatty foods, excessive secretion of stomach acids and a high intake of coffee, alcohol and carbonated cooldrinks. It was believed that smoking and regular use of medication containing aspirin and ibuprofen also contributed.

While all these factors seemed to make ulcers worse, they were, however, not the primary cause.

The real culprit turned out to be Helicobacter pylori, a strain of bacteria identified by two Australian researchers. Previously it was thought that bacteria could not survive the acidic environment of the stomach - an assumption that was eventually proved to be wrong.

Common symptoms
Peptic ulcers are associated with a wide variety of symptoms.

Many people suffer from excessive indigestion or discomfort, or a severe burning feeling, or a feeling of hunger in the upper part of the stomach. These symptoms can occur before or after meals and, very frequently, occurs at night. Symptoms can also occur after drinking orange juice, coffee or alcohol, or after taking aspirin.

Other symptoms of ulcers include a feeling of bloatedness, an excessive feeling of fullness during or after meals, nausea and vomiting, black or bloody stools, weight loss, fatigue and heartburn.

If left untreated, ulcers can be fatal.

- (Wilma Stassen, September 2007)

- Beeld
- News24

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Peptic ulcers


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