Peptic Ulcer Disease

Peptic ulcers are sores in the lining of the stomach and/or upper small intestine. Peptic ulcer disease is a common gastrointestinal disorder and can affect people of any age.

What Causes a Peptic Ulcer?
The most common cause of peptic ulcers is infection with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria. H. pylori lives in the digestive tract and can cause sores in the lining of the stomach or the upper part of the small intestine. It is believed that H. pylori can spread through contact with contaminated water or food.  

The second most common cause of peptic ulcers is the use of pain medications called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, etc. Frequent or long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can increase a risk of peptic ulcers.
The most common symptom of an ulcer is a burning pain in the stomach, between your breastbone and your belly button. You will often feel this pain when your stomach is empty, between meals generally, but it can occur at any time. Sometimes this pain will wake you in the middle of the night. The pain will last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.

While not as common as stomach pain, other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, or blood in the stool. Bleeding may be the first and only symptom of an ulcer. When an ulcer bleeds and continues to bleed without treatment, a person may become anemic and weak.
Call your doctor and schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Your doctor may give you one of several tests to determine. If you are infected with H. pylori, a breath test is used to detect H. pylori.

Another test for ulcers or other causes of your symptoms involves the use of endoscopy. In this test, the doctor inserts a small flexible tube through the mouth and into the stomach. The tube has a camera inside that allows the doctor to look for the presence of the inflammation or ulcers. The doctor can also take small samples from your stomach lining to be tested for the presence of H. pylori. Usually, you will be sedated during this procedure.

An alternative to endoscopy is an X-ray test, where you are given a chalk-like testing liquid to drink, after which X-ray are taken to show the outline of your digestive track. This test is called an upper gastrointestinal series.
Treatment for peptic ulcers depends on the cause. If you have been diagnosed with H. pylori infection, your doctor will prescribe a treatment plan to kill the infection. A number of different medications must be used simultaneously to treat this infection as it is resistant to many drugs. Usually two to three types of medication must be used for one to two weeks, including medication to treat stomach disorders and one to two types of antibiotics. This treatment is 80 to 90% effective in eliminating the H. pylori bacteria. The patient may have to continue medication to treat the stomach disorder for up to four to eight weeks, depending on the case.

If you have been diagnosed with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)-induced ulcers, the most effective treatment is to stop the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and take an acid suppressing drug as prescribed.

If ulcers bleed or perforate, the surgery may be needed.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly, eat food that has been properly prepared, and drink water from a clean, safe source to prevent H. pylori infection.
  • Consult the doctor or pharmacist if you need to use the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for a long time to reduce the risks of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)-induced ulcers.
  • Consult the doctor or pharmacist before taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

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