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Conditions

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder in which the muscles of the organs function abnormally. There is no cure for the chronic disorder, but simple treatment methods are often effective in relieving symptoms.

The cause of IBS is not known. It is believed by doctors that some people have extra-sensitive muscles within the bowels that contract or stretch too much, causing the typical symptoms of IBS. The disorder is most common in females and people under age 35.

The main symptoms of IBS include:

  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Feeling bloated
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea or constipation

Since these symptoms are common and characteristic of many other disorders, diagnosing IBS is often difficult.

The symptoms of IBS can often be treated simply through life changes. Avoiding foods that trigger reactions such as fast food, milk products, chocolate and alcohol can help prevent symptoms from flaring up. Managing stress and regular exercise are also effective forms of treatment. Medications like laxatives, antispasmodics and antidepressants are also useful for many people with IBS.


Stomach Flu

The stomach flu is a virus that causes swelling and discomfort within the gastrointestinal tract. It is the second most common illness in the US and causes vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, fever and abdominal pain. Most cases of stomach flu do not require any treatment and will get better on their own within a few days.

It is important for patients to note that stomach flu is not the same as influenza, or the regular flu. The symptoms of influenza are similar to those of a common cold, while the symptoms of stomach flu are usually localized to the gastrointestinal system.

Patients with stomach flu should let their stomach rest, especially after vomiting. Small sips of water or an electrolyte drink can help the stomach stabilize and also prevent the patient from becoming dehydrated. Medical attention may be needed if symptoms persist for more than a few days or become severe.


Ulcers

Ulcers are sores or lesions found on the skin or within the mucous membranes of the body. Most ulcers occur in the gastrointestinal area and are known as peptic ulcers. These ulcers affect almost 5 million people each year. Peptic ulcers are found either in the stomach, known as gastric ulcers, or in the duodenum (part of the intestines), known as duodenal ulcers. Duodenal ulcers are the most common.

Life factors such as smoking, caffeine, alcohol, stress and extreme use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs) can increase the risk of an ulcer.

The most common symptom of an ulcer is a gnawing or burning sensation in the abdomen. Other symptoms may include:

  • Back pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Weakness

After an ulcer is diagnosed, it can usually be treated quickly and effectively. Treatment for an ulcer caused by an H. pylori infection usually includes antibiotic medication, acid suppressors and stomach protectors. Life changes can also help treat and prevent ulcers. Unresponsive ulcers can be the result of serious complications such as stomach cancer.


Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease that involves inflammation and sores in the lining of the rectum and colon. These sores, known as ulcers, can flare up and cause painful symptoms and can eventually lead to colon cancer. Ulcerative colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease and is similar to Crohn's disease.

Ulcerative colitis most frequently begins between the ages of 15 and 30, although many people over the age of 50 also develop the disease. The cause of ulcerative colitis is not known, but may be associated with immune system abnormalities. While stress and other environmental factors are not causes, they may trigger symptoms when the condition exists.

Symptoms of ulcerative colitis occur in flare-ups that can be sudden and severe or begin gradually with mild symptoms. Although each person experiences the disease differently, common symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Joint pains
  • Anemia

Treatment for ulcerative colitis depends on the severity of the disease, but can include drug therapy to induce and maintain remission, hospitalization to treat severe symptoms or surgery to remove the colon and rectum. Many people with ulcerative colitis eventually need their colons removed because of excessive bleeding and a high risk of cancer.

People with ulcerative colitis may experience periods of remission that last months or even years, but symptoms will usually return unless surgery is performed.

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