Peptic ulcers are crater like open sores that occur in the duodenum or the upper part of the small intestine that is just below the stomach, in the inner linings of the stomach and on occasionally in the linings of the esophagus. Peptic ulcers are more often one-fourth to three-fourths of an inch in diameter, but on occasions can one or two inches in diameter.
Stomach ulcers are known as gastric ulcers, ulcers of the upper intestine or duodenum are known as duodenal ulcers and ulcers of the esophagus are known as esophageal ulcers.
Pepsin and hydrochloric acid are two components of the digestive juices present in the stomach. The food that is crushed by the stomach muscles are mixed with these digestive juices. If there is any damage to the inner linings of the stomach, then hydrochloric acid and pepsin may become overactive and cause ulcers. On the other hand, excessive amounts of the digestive juices may also lead to stomach lining damage and cause peptic ulcers
Peptic ulcers that remain untreated can lead to bleeding ulcers, perforated ulcers as well as peptic ulcers that lead to constriction of the intestinal passage leading to obstruction of the passing of food from the stomach to the small intestine. Bleeding ulcers cause damage to the blood vessels in the linings of the stomach leading to the seepage of blood into the digestive tract. Perforated ulcers, on the other hand, cause holes in the walls of the stomach and the duodenum. This can lead to the spilling of digested food into the hole, as well as bacterial infection resulting in severe inflammation of the inner linings within the duodenum and the stomach.
Symptoms of peptic ulcer
- Abdominal pain that comes with burning and gnawing sensations is the most common symptom of peptic ulcers. The pain is caused due to the ulcer itself and it can be aggravated by the contact of the stomach acid with an ulcerated region.
- Often the intense pain starts in the abdominal area but can travel to other regions such as the breast bone
- The pain tends to flare up and worsen at night, especially if one sleeps on an empty stomach
- After a few days of remission, peptic ulcer may cause the pain to flare up again. This cyclic pain may last for a few days or for some weeks
- One may get temporary relief from the pain caused by peptic ulcers by the intake of foods as well as medications that reduce or buffer the gastric acid.
- Vomiting- Vomit that has blood in it, which gives it a reddish or dark color
- The presence of blood in stool, giving it a tarry or dark color
- Alterations in appetite
- Inexplicable and unintended loss of weight
- The inner lining of the gastric chamber is coated with a layer of mucus. This mucus covering shields the inner linings against the harmful effects of pepsin and hydrochloric acid. The stomach is also responsible for the circulation of blood and the production of bicarbonate. This is a vital function and is instrumental in the repair and renewal of cells in the stomach. When the mucus layer is damaged or the other functions are impaired, then it results in the formation of peptic ulcers
- Studies have revealed that Helicobacter pylori or the H. pylori bacteria are responsible for causing peptic ulcers. The bacteria are found in the mucus covering or the inner linings of the stomach and therein they may multiply. Usually the bacteria are harmless, but sometimes they may lead to the destruction of the mucus coating thereby causing peptic ulcers. One can get infected by the Helicobacter pylori bacteria through the intake of contaminated food or water. The H. pylori bacteria may also spread through close contact such as kissing.
- Peptic ulcers can also be caused due to the intake of pain killer medications or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Such drugs can irritate or inflame the inner lining of the gastric chamber and hasten the onset of peptic ulcers
- Some medication conditions such as osteoporosis are treated with prescription drugs like bisphosphonates. Such medications can cause peptic ulcers
- Alcoholism or excessive consumption of alcohol, smoking and the use of tobacco products, intake of excess caffeine as well as physical or emotional trauma that results in excessive stress increase the risk of developing peptic ulcers
- The quantity of gastric acid can be decreased by medications such as H2-blockers
- Individuals who are resistant to H2-blockers can be given the powerful and potent proton-pump inhibitors. Such drugs like omeprazole are more efficient in diminishing the ability of the stomach to produce acid
- Sucralfate and misoprostol medications are suggested as they assist in the defense of mucus layers in the stomach from acid attack. Other drugs like antacids which neutralize the action of the acid in the stomach can also be used to treat peptic ulcers.
- Peptic ulcers caused by H. pylori bacteria are treated with different types of antibiotics.
- Peptic ulcers that result from the use of pain killer medications can be treated by their discontinuance and the use of alternative medications
- In severe cases of peptic ulcers surgery may be essential.
- A healthy lifestyle that consists of a balanced diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, decreased consumption of alcohol, quitting smoking and the use of tobacco products as well as regular exercise are key to the prevention of peptic ulcers
The other signs and symptoms of peptic ulcer listed below are not so common, but can definitely indicate the presence of peptic ulcers. These symptoms include:
Causes of peptic ulcers
Some of the causes and risk factors of peptic ulcers are mentioned below:
Treatment of peptic ulcers
The treatment and preventive methods of peptic ulcers are listed below:
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