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Ask Dr. Gott 12/27
Don't ignore stomach problems
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    DEAR DR. GOTT: I am a 50-year-old male and have had stomach problems my whole life. I have eliminated a lot of foods from my diet. I'm lactose intolerant, so I don't eat any dairy products. I get blurred vision and a sensation similar to a bright light in my eyes when my stomach is upset or has too much acid. This lasts until the acid is reduced, or until after I vomit. What causes this to happen?
    DEAR READER: There are several explanations for your symptoms, which need to be addressed by a gastroenterologist. You need a medical evaluation for some common conditions, such as peptic disease and gastroesophageal reflux.
    Peptic ulcers can develop at any age and ordinarily form in the stomach lining and upper digestive tract. Contrary to previous beliefs, stress does not cause ulcers. Stressful situations may aggravate an existing ulcer, but there is no evidence to prove they cause an ulcer to form. Burning pain may appear between meals and in the early hours of the morning when the stomach is empty. Less common symptoms are nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite, with pain lasting from a few minutes to several hours. It is ordinarily reduced or eliminated completely by eating food or taking an antacid such as TUMS. Over-the-counter Maalox or Mylanta relieves symptoms, as well.
    Smokers are twice as likely to develop ulcers as are nonsmokers. In fact, people who stop smoking have a lower rate of recurrent ulcers, regardless of medication they may be taking.
    Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen used over a long period of time and taken for arthritis and other conditions can also trigger an attack. NSAIDs appear to inhibit the stomach's ability to secrete a protective substance called prostaglandin. If you have a long history of usage, speak with your doctor. A simple step such as eliminating the over-the-counter NSAIDs might be all you need to eliminate the symptoms of peptic disease.
    Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is caused by a backwash of stomach acid and gastric juices into the esophagus. Symptoms include chest pain, a burning sensation, indigestion, heartburn, difficulty swallowing and more. Severe cases are treated with medication as an initial step. Your physician can make a firm diagnosis through upper endoscopy or a barium swallow.
    From your description, you have a severe case that should be discussed with your doctor and identified clearly so proper treatment can be prescribed. If necessary, he or she can refer you to an appropriate specialist for more in-depth care.
    To give you related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report "Hiatal Hernia, Acid Reflux and Indigestion."
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