Ulcers are a very common problem among professional truck drivers due to their lifestyle and job demands.
An ulcer is basically an open sore found on the skin or mucous membranes of the body.
The type of ulcers which most apply to truck drivers are the ones located in the stomach and intestines and as a result I will focus on these.
In the past, scientists and doctors believed that the major causes of ulcers were lifestyle factors such as stress and diet.
However, recent research has shown that 80-90% of ulcers develop as result of an infection with a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori.
Although the bacteria is the major cause of ulcers, other factors do play a role in the development of ulcers.
First of all, studies have shown that smoking increases your chance of getting an ulcer and also slows down the healing process of existing ulcers due to the fact that nicotine increases the concentration of stomach acid.
Similarly, caffeine seems to stimulate acid secretion in the stomach, which can aggravate the pain of an existing ulcer.
Although it is now known that stress is not a major cause of ulcers, people with ulcers often report that emotional stress increases their symptoms.
The most common ulcer symptom is burning and pain in the abdomen between the breastbone and the belly button.
The pain often occurs between meals and the early hours of the morning.
Generally, the symptoms last from a few minutes to a few hours. Most people find that the pain is worse when they have an empty stomach.
Less often, people may experience symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, chest pain, loss of weight and belching.
As you can see, the signs of an ulcer can resemble other digestive tract conditions, so it is important to consult with your doctor if you are experiencing any combination of these symptoms.
In most cases, having an ulcer is not a serious condition.
However, people may experience serious complications if they do not receive the proper treatment.
These complications include bleeding and perforations of the stomach or intestinal wall which can lead to infections in the abdominal cavity.
If an ulcer is left untreated for too long, it may cause swelling or scarring.
In order to treat an ulcer, your physician must first determine its cause.
Generally, your physician will conduct a series of tests which include X-rays and a procedure called an endoscopy in which a small flexible instrument with a camera on the end is inserted through the mouth into the esophagus, stomach, and upper intestines to view the digestive tract.
Once the cause of the ulcer is determined, your physician will treat it accordingly.
Treatments may include medications that block the production of stomach acid as well as antibiotics.
In addition, your doctor may suggest avoiding spicy, fatty or acidic foods, nicotine and alcohol. In most cases, medication and lifestyle modification are effective in the treatment of ulcers. However, people who do not respond to these treatments may require surgery.
I am sure it is clear why professional truck drivers are at a greater risk of developing ulcers. The good news is that by making simple lifestyle modifications you will be able to minimize your chances of getting an ulcer. Until next month, drive safely!
– Dr. Chris Singh, B. Kin., D. C., runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont.