Peptic ulcer disease results due to a break in the mucous lining of the stomach or the first part of the small intestine (duodenum). It happens when the acids that help you digest food damage the walls of the stomach or duodenum.
It is a common complaint worldwide. Peptic ulcers are present in around 4% of the population. It is more common in people with low socioeconomic status.
- Gastric ulcer; this occurs when the ulcer is in the stomach
- Duodenal ulcer; this results when the ulcer is located in the duodenum (first part of the intestine)
Causes of peptic ulcer disease includes;
- Helicobacter pylori infection; this is the leading cause of peptic ulcer disease. This is a bacteria which reside in the stomach of more than 50% of people worldwide.
- NSAIDs; the regular use of NSAIDS such as aspirin, diclofenac, ibuprofen can lead to ulceration of the stomach. This occur especially if it is taken in an empty stomach
- Family history;
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Excessive acid production; seen min Zollinger Ellison syndrome (gastrinoma). This is a tumor in which the acid producing cells of the stomach increase the acid output.
It’s important to note that stress and spicy foods do not cause ulcers, but can make them worse.
Signs and symptoms
- Pain; this usually affects the upper part of the abdomen and it is worse when you are hungry (gastric ulcer) or when you are eating (duodenal ulcers)
- Heartburn; a burning sensation in the chest, caused by acid regurgitation into the oesophagus.
- Bloating and abdominal fullness
- Passage of dark, tarry, foul-smelling faeces due to presence of broken down red blood cells in the body. The red blood cells is due to internal bleeding due to erosion of a blood vessel by the acid in the stomach.
- Weight loss; this results because you are scared of eating
The definitive confirmatory test of peptic ulcer disease is via endoscopy and barium contrast x-rays. However, treatment can be made after proper questioning and examination by your managing healthcare workers.
- Perforation; this is due to erosion of the lining of the stomach. This can lead to leakage of the content of the stomach into the abdominal cavity leading to serious consequences.
- Peritonitis; this is inflammation of the abdominal cavity due to leakage of the stomach and intestinal content in to the abdominal cavity.
- Bleeding; this is due to erosion of the blood vessels by the stomach acid. It can be very fatal because the person can actually lead to death.
Most peptic ulcer diseases are caused by helicobacter pylori. Therefore it is important you get rid of the bacteria by the use of antibiotics and acid reducing medications which will be prescribed by your doctor.
- Mild symptoms can be relieved with the use of only acid reducing agents.
- Avoid the use of NSAIDs for pain, instead use of acetaminophen. If you must use NSAIDs your doctor will prescribe some other drugs with the NSAIDs.
- Surgery might be needed if the ulcer is not healing or there is associated complication.