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Frequently Asked Questions About Digestive Diseases

8. What Is Hepatitis and How Can I Prevent It?

Hepatitis is a virus that inflames the liver. It can be either acute (lasting less than 6 months) or chronic (lasting more than 6 months). There are several viruses that cause it, including hepatitis A, B, and C.

To lower your chances of getting the disease:

  • Get the vaccines for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. (Right now there’s no vaccine for hepatitis C.)
  • Use a latex condom during sex.
  • Don't share needles or take illegal drugs.
  • Practice good personal hygiene, such as thorough hand-washing.
  • Don't use an infected person's personal items, such as razors or toothbrushes.
  • Be careful when you get any tattoos or body piercings. Choose licensed shops that clean equipment properly.
  • Protect yourself when you travel to areas of the world with poor sanitation. Get your hepatitis A shot before you go.
  • If you eat raw sushi, consider getting the hepatitis A vaccine.

9. What Are Ulcers and How Do I Know if I Have Them?

Ulcers are painful sores in the lining of the stomach or the first part of the small intestine. Not all of them have symptoms, but warning signs can include:

  • A gnawing or burning pain in the middle or upper stomach between meals or at night
  • Bloating
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea or vomiting

In severe cases, ulcer symptoms can include:

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

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

Let yours know if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Heartburn that doesn’t go away or gets worse, or doesn’t get better with medication
  • A feeling that food is caught in your chest or throat
  • Unusual or lasting belly pain
  • Discomfort that keeps you from your usual activities
  • Trouble or painful swallowing
  • Heartburn that causes vomiting
  • Vomiting blood
  • Bloody or black stools
  • Major weight loss you can’t explain
  • Hoarseness or a sore throat that doesn’t improve
  • Choking
  • Diarrhea that doesn’t go away
  • New or lasting constipation

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on July 07, 2015
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