Digestive Diseases

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Abdominal Bloating:

Abdominal bloating is a condition in which the abdomen (belly) feels full and tight.
Causes
  • Air swallowing (a nervous habit)
  • Constipation
  • Excess gas in the bowel
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Lactose intolerance and other food intolerances
  • Overeating
  • Partial bowel obstruction
  • Small bowel bacterial overgrowth
Important but uncommon causes of abdominal bloating include ascites and tumors, such as those arising from ovarian cancer.

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Abdominal Pain
 Also called: Bellyache

Your abdomen extends from below your chest to your groin. Some people call it the stomach, but your abdomen contains many other important organs. Pain in the abdomen can come from any one of them. The pain may start somewhere else, such as your chest. Severe pain doesn't always mean a serious problem. Nor does mild pain mean a problem is not serious.

Call your healthcare provider if mild pain lasts a week or more or if you have pain with other symptoms. Get medical help immediately if
  • You have abdominal pain that is sudden and sharp
  • You also have pain in your chest, neck or shoulder
  • You're vomiting blood or have blood in your stool
  • Your abdomen is stiff, hard and tender to touch
  • You can't move your bowels, especially if you're also vomiting
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Abnormal Liver Tests
An initial step in detecting liver damage is a simple blood test to determine the presence of certain liver enzymes in the blood.  Under normal conditions, these enzymes reside within the cells of the liver, but when the liver is injured, these enzymes are spilled into the blood stream signaling liver damage.

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Anemia
 Also called: Iron poor blood

If you have anemia, your blood does not carry enough oxygen to the rest of your body. The most common cause of anemia is not having enough iron. Your body needs iron to make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is an iron-rich protein that gives the red color to blood. It carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.

Your iron might be too low because of heavy periods, pregnancy, ulcers, colon polyps, colon cancer, inherited disorders or a diet that does not have enough iron. You can also get anemia from not getting enough folic acid or vitamin B 12. Blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia and thalassemia, or cancer may also lead to anemia.

Anemia can make you feel weak, cold, dizzy and irritable. It is confirmed with a blood test. Treatment depends on the kind of anemia you have.

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Ascites
Ascites is excess fluid in the space between the tissues lining the abdomen and abdominal organs (the peritoneal cavity).

Causes
A person with ascites usually has severe liver disease. Ascites is caused by high pressure in the blood vessels of the liver (portal hypertension) and low albumin levels.

Disorders that may be associated with ascites include:
  • Cirrhosis
  • Clots in the veins of the liver (portal vein thrombosis)
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Constrictive pericarditis
  • Hepatitis
  • Liver cancer
  • Nephrotic syndrome
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Pancreatitis
  • Protein-losing enteropathy
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Callac Disease

Colitis
Ulcerative colitis is a disease that causes ulcers in the lining of the rectum and colon. It is one of a group of diseases called inflammatory bowel disease. Ulcers form where inflammation has killed the cells that usually line the colon.

Ulcerative colitis can happen at any age, but it usually starts between the ages of 15 and 30. It tends to run in families. The most common symptoms are pain in the abdomen and bloody diarrhea. Other symptoms may include anemia, severe tiredness, weight loss, loss of appetite, bleeding from the rectum, sores on the skin and joint pain. Children with the disease may have growth problems.

About half of people with ulcerative colitis have mild symptoms. Several types of drugs can help control ulcerative colitis. Some people have long periods of remission, when they are free of symptoms. In severe cases, doctors must remove the colon.

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Colon Cancer
Cancer of the colon or rectum is also called colorectal cancer. In the United States, it is the fourth most common cancer in men and women. Caught early, it is often curable.

It is more common in people over 50, and the risk increases with age. You are also more likely to get it if you have
  • Polyps - growths inside the colon and rectum that may become cancerous
  • A diet that is high in fat
  • A family history or personal history of colorectal cancer
  • Ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease
Symptoms can include blood in the stool, narrower stools, a change in bowel habits and general stomach discomfort. However, you may not have symptoms at first, so screening is important. Everyone who is 50 or older should be screened for colorectal cancer. Colonoscopy is one method that your doctor can use to screen for colorectal cancer. Treatments for colorectal cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination.

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Colon Polpys
A colorectal polyp is a growth that sticks out of the lining of the colon or rectum.

Causes
Polyps of the colon and rectum are usually benign. There may be single or many polyps, and they become more common as people age.

Over time, certain types of polyps, called adenomatous polyps, may develop into cancer. Another common type of polyp found in the colon is called a hyperplastic polyp, which usually does not develop into colon cancer.

Polyps bigger than 1 centimeter have a greater cancer risk than polyps under 1 centimeter. Risk factors include:
  • Age
  • Family history of colon cancer or polyps
Polyps may also be associated with some inherited disorders, including:
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis
  • Gardner's syndrome
  • Juvenile polyposis
  • Lynch syndrome (HNPCC)
  • Peutz-Jeghers syndrome
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Constipation
Constipation means that a person has three or fewer bowel movement in a week. The stool can be hard and dry. Sometimes it is painful to pass. At one time or another, almost everyone gets constipated. In most cases, it lasts a short time and is not serious.

There are many things you can do to prevent constipation. They include:
  • Eating more fruits, vegetables and grains, which are high in fiber
  • Drinking plenty of water and other liquids
  • Getting enough exercise
  • Taking time to have a bowel movement when you need to
  • Using laxatives only if your doctor says you should
  • Asking your doctor if medicines you take may cause constipation

It's not important that you have a bowel movement every day. If your bowel habits change, however, check with your doctor.

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Crohn's Disease
 Also called: Regional enteritis, Regional ileitis

Crohn's disease causes inflammation of the digestive system. It is one of a group of diseases called inflammatory bowel disease. The disease can affect any area from the mouth to the anus. It often affects the lower part of the small intestine called the ileum.

Crohn's disease seems to run in some families. It can occur in people of all age groups but is most often diagnosed in young adults. Common symptoms are pain in the abdomen and diarrhea. Bleeding from the rectum, weight loss, joint pain, skin problems and fever may also occur. Children with the disease may have growth problems. Other problems can include intestinal blockage and malnutrition.

Treatment may include medicines, nutrition supplements, surgery or a combination of these options. Some people have long periods of remission, when they are free of symptoms.

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Diarrhea
  Also called: Dysentery, The runs, The trots

Diarrhea means that you have loose, watery stools more than three times in one day. You may also have cramps, bloating, nausea and an urgent need to have a bowel movement.

Causes of diarrhea include bacteria, viruses or parasites, certain medicines, food intolerances and diseases that affect the stomach, small intestine or colon. In many cases, no cause can be found.

Although usually not harmful, diarrhea can become dangerous or signal a more serious problem. You should talk to your doctor if you have a strong pain in your abdomen or rectum, a fever, blood in your stools, severe diarrhea for more than three days or symptoms of dehydration. If your child has diarrhea, do not hesitate to call the doctor for advice. Diarrhea can be dangerous in children.

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Diverticulosis & Diverticulitis
 Also called: Diverticular disease

Diverticula are small pouches that bulge outward through the colon, or large intestine. If you have these pouches, you have diverticulosis. This condition becomes more common as people age. About half of all people over age 60 have it. Doctors believe the main cause is a low-fiber diet.

Most people with diverticulosis don't have symptoms. Sometimes it causes mild cramps, bloating or constipation. A high-fiber diet and mild pain reliever will often relieve symptoms.

If the pouches become inflamed or infected, you have diverticulitis. The most common symptom is abdominal pain, usually on the left side. If the diverticula are infected, you may also have fever, nausea, vomiting, chills, cramping and constipation. In serious cases, diverticulitis can lead to bleeding tears, or blockages. Treatment focuses on clearing up the infection with antibiotics, resting the colon and preventing future problems. A serious case may require a hospital stay.

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Esophagitis
CMV gastroenteritis/colitis is inflammation of the stomach or intestine due to infection with cytomegalovirus (CMV).

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Fatty Liver
Fatty liver is just what its name suggests: the build-up of excess fat in the liver cells. It is normal for your liver to contain some fat. But if fat accounts for more than 10% of your liver’s weight, then you have fatty liver and you may develop more serious complications.

Fatty liver may cause no damage, but sometimes the excess fat leads to inflammation of the liver. This condition, called steatohepatitis, does cause liver damage. Sometimes, inflammation from a fatty liver is linked to alcohol abuse; this is known as alcoholic steatohepatitis. Otherwise the condition is called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH.

An inflamed liver may become scarred and hardened over time. This condition, called cirrhosis, is serious and often leads to liver failure.

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Fissures
An anal fissure is a small tear in the lining of the anal canal. This type of tear may develop in adults from passing hard or large stools during bowel movements. Anal fissure is also common in infants between 6 and 24 months. Anal fissures are less likely to develop in older children.

An anal fissure may cause you to experience pain and bleeding. More than 90 percent heal without surgery, and you can use topical creams or suppositories to provide relief as they heal. Anal fissures that fail to heal may become chronic and cause considerable discomfort.

If you develop an anal fissure that doesn't heal, surgery may relieve your discomfort.
Symptoms

The main signs and symptoms of an anal fissure include:
  • Pain or burning during bowel movements that eases until the next bowel movement
  • Bright red blood on the outside of the stool or on toilet paper or wipes after a bowel movement
  • Itching or irritation around the anus
  • A visible crack in the skin around the anus
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Fistulas
A fistula is an abnormal connection between two parts inside of the body. Fistulas can happen because of injury, infection or inflammation. They may develop between different organs such as between the esophagus and the windpipe, or the bowel and the vagina. They can also develop between two blood vessels such as between an artery and a vein, or between two arteries.

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Gallstones
  Also called: Cholelithiasis

Your gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ under your liver. It stores bile, a fluid made by your liver to digest fat. As your stomach and intestines digest food, your gallbladder releases bile through a tube called the common bile duct. The duct connects your gallbladder and liver to your small intestine.

Your gallbladder is most likely to give you trouble if something blocks the flow of bile through the bile ducts. That is usually a gallstone. Gallstones form when substances in bile harden. Gallstone attacks usually happen after you eat. Signs of a gallstone attack may include nausea, vomiting, or pain in the abdomen, back, or just under the right arm.

Gallstones are most common among older adults, women, overweight people, Native Americans and Mexican Americans. The most common treatment is removal of the gallbladder. Fortunately, the gallbladder is an organ that you can live without. Bile has other ways to reach your small intestine

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Gas (excessive)
Everyone has gas and eliminates it by burping or passing it through the rectum. However, many people think they have too much gas when they really have normal amounts. Most people produce about 1 to 4 pints a day and pass gas about 14 times a day.

Gas is made primarily of odorless vapors—carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, and sometimes methane. The unpleasant odor of flatulence, the gas that passes through the rectum, comes from bacteria in the large intestine that release small amounts of gases containing sulfur.

Although having gas is common, it can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. Understanding causes, ways to reduce symptoms, and treatment will help most people find relief.

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Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Your esophagus is the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) happens when a muscle at the end of your esophagus does not close properly. This allows stomach contents to leak back, or reflux, into the esophagus and irritate it.

You may feel a burning in the chest or throat called heartburn. Sometimes, you can taste stomach fluid in the back of the mouth. This is acid indigestion. If you have these symptoms more than twice a week, you may have GERD.

Anyone, including infants and children, can have GERD. If not treated, it can lead to more serious health problems. In some cases, you might need medicines or surgery. However, many people can improve their symptoms by
  • Avoiding alcohol and spicy, fatty or acidic foods that trigger heartburn
  • Eating smaller meals
  • Not eating close to bedtime
  • Losing weight if needed
  • Wearing loose-fitting clothes
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GI Bleeding
Your digestive or gastrointestinal (GI) tract includes the espophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine or colon, rectum and anus. Bleeding can come from one or more of these areas. The amount of bleeding can be so small that only a lab test can find it.

GI bleeding is not a disease, but a symptom of a disease. There are many possible causes of GI bleeding, including
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Peptic ulcers
  • Tears or inflammation in the esophagus
  • Diverticulosis and diverticulitis
  • Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease
  • Colonic polyps
  • Cancer in the colon, stomach or esophagus
The test used most often to look for the cause of GI bleeding is called endoscopy. It uses a flexible instrument inserted through the mouth or rectum to view the inside of the GI tract. A type of endoscopy called colonoscopy looks at the large intestine.

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Heartburn
 Also called: Acid indigestion, Pyrosis

Almost everyone has heartburn sometimes. Heartburn is a painful burning feeling in your chest or throat. It happens when stomach acid backs up into your esophagus, the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. If you have heartburn more than twice a week, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). With GERD, the muscles at the end of your esophagus do not close tightly enough. This allows contents of the stomach to back up, or reflux, into the esophagus and irritate it.

Pregnancy, certain foods, alcohol and some medications can bring on heartburn. Treating heartburn is important because over time reflux can damage the esophagus. Over-the-counter medicines may help. If the heartburn continues, you may need prescription medicines or surgery.

If you have other symptoms such as crushing chest pain, it could be a heart attack. Get help immediately.

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Helicobacter Pylori (Stomach Infection)
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is the bacteria responsible for most ulcers and many cases of stomach inflammation (chronic gastritis).

The bacteria can weaken the protective coating of the stomach, allowing digestive juices to irritate the sensitive stomach lining.
Causes

As many as half of the world's population is infected with H. pylori. Those living in developing countries or crowded, unsanitary conditions are most likely to contract the bacterium, which is passed from person to person. H. pylori only grows in the stomach, and is usually contracted during childhood.

Interestingly, many people have this organism in their stomach, but don't get an ulcer or gastritis. It seems that other factors must also be present for the damage to take place. The factors that increase your risk for an ulcer from H. pylori include:
  • Abnormal immune response in your stomach
  • Certain lifestyle habits, like coffee drinking, smoking, and alcohol consumption
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Hemochromatosis
 Also called: Iron overload disease

Hemochromatosis is an inherited disease in which too much iron builds up in your body. It is one of the most common genetic diseases in the United States.

Iron is a mineral found in many foods. Your body normally absorbs about 10 percent of the iron in the food you eat. If you have hemochromatosis, you absorb more iron than you need. Your body has no natural way to get rid of the extra iron. It stores it in body tissues, especially the liver, heart and pancreas. The extra iron can damage your organs. Without treatment, it can cause your organs to fail.

The most common treatment is to remove some blood, just like when you donate blood. This is called therapeutic phlebotomy. Medicines may also help remove the extra iron. Your doctor might suggest some changes in your diet.

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Hepatitis
 Also called: Viral hepatitis

Your liver helps your body digest food, store energy and remove poisons. Hepatitis is a swelling of the liver that makes it stop working well. It can lead to scarring, called cirrhosis, or to cancer.

Viruses cause most cases of hepatitis. The type of hepatitis is named for the virus that causes it; for example, hepatitis A, hepatitis B or hepatitis C. Drug or alcohol use can also lead to hepatitis. In other cases, your body mistakenly attacks its own tissues. You can help prevent some viral forms by getting a vaccine. Sometimes hepatitis goes away by itself. If it does not, it can be treated with drugs. Sometimes hepatitis lasts a lifetime.

Some people who have hepatitis have no symptoms. Others may have
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dark-colored urine and pale bowel movements
  • Stomach pain
  • Jaundice, yellowing of skin and eyes
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Hepatitis A
 Also called: HAV

Hepatitis A is one type of hepatitis - a liver disease - caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). The disease is spread primarily through food or water contaminated by stool from an infected person. You can get HAV from
  • Eating food prepared by someone with HAV who did not wash their hands after using the bathroom
  • Having anal/oral sex with someone with HAV
  • Not washing your hands after changing a diaper
  • Drinking contaminated water
HAV can cause swelling of the liver, but it rarely causes lasting damage. You may feel as if you have the flu, or you may have no symptoms at all. It usually gets better on its own after several weeks.

The hepatitis A vaccine can prevent HAV. Healthy habits also make a difference. Wash your hands thoroughly before preparing food, after using the toilet or after changing a diaper. International travelers should be careful about drinking tap water.

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Hepatitis B
 Also called: HBV

Hepatitis B is one type of hepatitis – a liver disease- caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Hepatitis B spreads by contact with an infected person's blood, semen or other body fluid. An infected woman can give hepatitis B to her baby at birth.

If you get HBV, you may feel as if you have the flu, or you may have no symptoms at all. A blood test can tell if you have it. HBV usually gets better on its own after a few months. If it does not get better, it is called chronic HBV, which lasts a lifetime. Chronic HBV can lead to scarring of the liver, liver failure or liver cancer.

There is a vaccine for HBV. It requires three shots. All babies should get the vaccine, but older children and adults can get it too. If you travel to countries where Hepatitis B is common, you should get the vaccine.

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Hepatitis C
 Also called: HCV

Hepatitis C is one type of hepatitis - a liver disease - caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). It usually spreads through contact with infected blood. It can also spread through sex with an infected person and from mother to baby during childbirth.

Most people who are infected with hepatitis C don't have any symptoms for years. A blood test can tell if you have it. Usually, hepatitis C does not get better by itself. The infection can last a lifetime and may lead to scarring of the liver or liver cancer. Medicines sometimes help, but side effects can be a problem. Serious cases may need a liver transplant.

There is no vaccine for HCV.

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome
 Also called: IBS, Irritable colon

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a problem that affects the large intestine. It can cause abdominal cramping, bloating and a change in bowel habits. Some people with the disorder have constipation. Some have diarrhea. Some go back and forth between constipation and diarrhea. Although IBS can cause a great deal of discomfort, it does not harm the intestines.

IBS is a common disorder and happens more often in women than men. No one knows the exact cause of IBS. There is no specific test for IBS. However, your doctor may run tests to be sure you don't have other diseases. These tests may include stool sampling tests, blood tests and x-rays. Your doctor may also do a test called a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. Most people diagnosed with IBS can control their symptoms with diet, stress management and medicine.

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Jaundice
 Also called: Icterus

Jaundice causes your skin and the whites of your eyes to turn yellow. Too much bilirubin causes jaundice. Bilirubin is a yellow chemical in hemoglobin, the substance that carries oxygen in your red blood cells. As red blood cells break down, your body builds new cells to replace them. The old ones are processed by the liver. If the liver cannot handle the blood cells as they break down, bilirubin builds up in the body and your skin may look yellow.

Many healthy babies have some jaundice during the first week of life. It usually goes away. However, jaundice can happen at any age and may be a sign of a problem. Jaundice can happen for many reasons, such as:
  • Blood diseases
  • Genetic syndromes
  • Liver diseases, such as hepatitis or cirrhosis
  • Blockage of bile ducts
  • Infections
  • Medicines
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Lactose Intolerance
 Also called: Dairy product intolerance, Lactase deficiency, Milk intolerance

Lactose intolerance means that you cannot digest foods with lactose in them. Lactose is the sugar found in milk and foods made with milk. After eating foods with lactose in them, you may feel sick to your stomach. You may also have
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Swelling in your stomach
Your doctor may do a blood, breath or stool test to find out if your problems are due to lactose intolerance.

Lactose intolerance is not serious. Eating less food with lactose, or using pills or drops to help you digest lactose usually helps. You may need to take a calcium supplement if you don't get enough of it from your diet, since milk and foods made with milk are the most common source of calcium for most people.

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Liver Diseases
 Also called: Hepatic disease

Your liver is the largest organ inside your body. It is also one of the most important. The liver has many jobs, including changing food into energy and cleaning alcohol and poisons from the blood. Your liver also makes bile, a yellowish-green liquid that helps with digestion.

There are many kinds of liver diseases. Viruses cause some of them, like hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Others can be the result of drugs, poisons or drinking too much alcohol. If the liver forms scar tissue because of an illness, it's called cirrhosis. Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin, can be one sign of liver disease.

Like other parts of your body, cancer can affect the liver. You could also inherit a liver disease such as hemochromatosis.

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Pancreas Disease
The pancreas is a gland behind your stomach and in front of your spine. It produces juices that help break down food and hormones that help control blood sugar levels. Problems with the pancreas can lead to many health problems. These include
  • Pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas: This happens when digestive enzymes start digesting the pancreas itself
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder in which thick, sticky mucus can also block tubes in your pancreas
The pancreas also plays a role in diabetes. In type I diabetes, the beta cells of the pancreas no longer make insulin because the body's immune system has attacked them. In type II diabetes, the pancreas loses the ability to secrete enough insulin in response to meals.

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Pancreatitis
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is a large gland behind the stomach and close to the duodenum—the first part of the small intestine. The pancreas secretes digestive juices, or enzymes, into the duodenum through a tube called the pancreatic duct. Pancreatic enzymes join with bile—a liquid produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder—to digest food. The pancreas also releases the hormones insulin and glucagon into the bloodstream. These hormones help the body regulate the glucose it takes from food for energy.

Normally, digestive enzymes secreted by the pancreas do not become active until they reach the small intestine. But when the pancreas is inflamed, the enzymes inside it attack and damage the tissues that produce them.

Pancreatitis can be acute or chronic. Either form is serious and can lead to complications. In severe cases, bleeding, infection, and permanent tissue damage may occur.

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Peptic Ulcer
 Also called: Duodenal ulcer, Gastric ulcer, Stomach ulcer, Ulcer

A peptic ulcer is a sore in the lining of your stomach or your duodenum, the first part of your small intestine. A burning stomach pain is the most common symptom. The pain
  • May come and go for a few days or weeks
  • May bother you more when your stomach is empty
  • Usually goes away after you eat
Peptic ulcers happen when the acids that help you digest food damage the walls of the stomach or duodenum. The most common cause is infection with a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori. Another cause is the long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Stress and spicy foods do not cause ulcers, but can make them worse.

Peptic ulcers will get worse if not treated. Treatment may include medicines to block stomach acids or antibiotics to kill ulcer-causing bacteria. Not smoking and avoiding alcohol can help. Surgery may help for ulcers that don't heal.

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IMPORTANT:

The preceding information is intended only to provide general information and not as a definitive basis for diagnosis or treatment in any particular cases.  It is very important that you consult your doctor about your specific condition.