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Frequently Asked Questions About Digestive Diseases

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8. What Is Hepatitis and How Can It be Prevented?

Hepatitis is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver. It can be either acute (lasting less than six months) or chronic (lasting more than six months). Several viruses are known to cause hepatitis, including hepatitis A, B, and C.

To reduce your chances of getting hepatitis:

  • Get the vaccines for hepatitis A and hepatitis B (there is currently no vaccine available for hepatitis C).
  • Use a latex condom during sex.
  • Don't share needles or take drugs.
  • Practice good personal hygiene, such as thorough hand-washing.
  • Don't use an infected person's personal items, such as razors or toothbrushes.
  • Take precautions when getting any tattoos or body piercings.
  • Take precaution when traveling to areas of the world with poor sanitation. Make sure you get immunized against hepatitis A.
  • If you eat raw sushi, consider getting the hepatitis A vaccine.

 

9. What Are Ulcers and How Do I know If I Have Them?

Peptic ulcer disease refers to painful sores or ulcers in the lining of the stomach or first part of the small intestine, called the duodenum.

An ulcer may or may not have symptoms. When symptoms occur, they include:

In severe cases, ulcer symptoms can include:

  • Dark or black stool (due to bleeding)
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Severe pain in the mid to upper abdomen

 

10. When Should I Call the Doctor About Digestive Problems?

You should call your health care provider if you have any of the following digestive symptoms:

  • Heartburn that persists and/or becomes more severe, or is not relieved by medication
  • A sensation of food caught in the chest or throat
  • Unusual or persistent abdominal pain
  • Discomfort that interferes with daily activities
  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  • Heartburn that causes vomiting
  • Vomiting of blood
  • Bloody or black stools
  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Persistent hoarseness and/or a sore throat
  • Episodes of choking
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • New or persistent constipation

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on September 07, 2014
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