Treatment for duodenal ulcers has changed drastically over the last couple of decades. Whereas fifty years ago, most patients with duodenal ulcers had to have their abdomens cut open and surgery performed, today most patients are treated by a combination of drugs that reduces the exposure of the stomach lining to acid. Among the most effective are drugs known as H2 Blockers, which can effectively block the production of acid in the stomach. The H2 Blockers, of which there are several on the market (such as Cimetidine, Ranitidine and Famotidine), are ex-pensive, but they have revolutionised the management of stomach ulcers.
Most patients who are shown to have an ulcer on gastroscopy are prescribed a course of H2 Blockers, usually for four to six weeks, and this usually heals the ulcers. But the drugs alone are not enough – certain measures which are known to stimulate acid production by the stomach have to be avoided. Cigarette smoking, stress and certain pain-killing drugs known as Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) are all known to increase acid production, and at least until the ulcer heals, they should all be avoided. Meals should be taken at regular hours, and long periods with the stomach empty should be avoided. To prevent recurrence, it is best if one can give up smoking and the use of NSAID drugs altogether, and cultivate an attitude of mind and a life-style that diminishes stress.
There are other drugs that help in treating peptic ulcers, antacids like Aluminum Hydroxide and Magnesia that act by chemically neutralising the acid and protective agents such as Sucralfate that coat the ulcer and prevent further damage by acid. Obviously, one’s own doctor, who knows the history of the illness and the particular nature of the patient, would be the best person to decide which particular drug or drugs would suit an individual.
If a person suffers from a recurrence of ulceration, the time has come to decide between starting on a permanent course of drugs (which can be expensive) or undergoing surgery (which nowadays, unless one suffers from other diseases, is quick and safe). Duodenal ulcers are said to be more common in the hardworking, intense type of person, so if you are one of these, and have lately been experiencing pain in the upper part of the tummy, now is the time to have your doctor check it out.