Peptic Ulcer – Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Peptic Ulcer, (also known as ulcus pepticum), is a raw and painful area that occurs in the gastro-intestinal tract as a result of mucosal erosion by acidic gastric juices. It may occur in the oesophagus, stomach, or duodenum. Mostly the duodenum (after the stomach; the first part of the small intestine) is most likely to be afflicted by the peptic ulcer. Peptic Ulcers could occur as single or multiple ulcers and they normally measure from 10mm to 25mm across and around 0.25mm in depth.

Causes

The lining of the duodenum is at continuous risk of erosion by the acidic juices produced by the stomach walls. The lower part of the oesophagus is at risk only if and when the reflux of the acidic juices from the stomach takes place. Reflux is when there is a backward flow of the acids, that is, when the acidic juices from the stomach backflow into the oesophagus (throat or food pipe).

Peptic Ulcers arise in the jejunum, only when there is a massive secretion of the gastric juices. The jejunum is a part of the small intestine, which is about 8 to 10 feet in length, between the duodenum and ileum. It helps in the absorption process of the bile salts and nutrients in digestion.

Some of the main causes of the occurrence of peptic ulcers mostly could be by the consumption of a lot of alcohol, or by excessive coffee drinking which induces high caffeine intake, or even by regular ingestion of aspirin. Other irritants could also be bile and bacteria among others. They are also caused by an increase in acid secretion and a reduction in mucus production. For some people, peptic ulcers occur due to genetics, as they are pre-disposed to developing these ulcers hereditarily.

If the occurrences are frequent in the family’s medical history, it is important to take preventive measures. Psychological stress also plays a major part in aggravating an existing ulcer, thus making it even worse. Even smoking worsens ulcers, as the nicotine in tobacco increases the amount and concentration of acids in the stomach and thus intensifying the existing ulcer or it could also lead to the creation of more ulcers. Smoking may also slow down the treatment and healing process of ulcers.

Both men and women are equally prone to the incidence of gastric ulcers, but when it comes to duodenal ulcers, more men are likely to suffer from them than women.

Symptoms

The most typical symptom is that of a gnawing persistent pain in the abdomen especially when the stomach is empty. Some people suffering from a peptic ulcer show no symptoms, but most people complain of a burning pain in the abdomen which also wakes them up in the nights at times. Eating relieves the pain of a duodenal ulcer, only for the pain to recur after a couple of hours.

Other symptoms which are common for both ulcers, that of duodenal and gastric ulcers, are: loss of appetite (although in the case of duodenal ulcers, it sometimes increases appetite), belching, weight loss, a bloated feeling, nausea, vomiting (which is sometimes even blood), waterbrash (rush of saliva to dilute the stomach acids after the reflux), and melena (unusual and bad smelling feces).

Treatments

Antacid Drugs neutralize the excess acid levels and help in the healing of the ulcers. If taken regularly, they can help in ultimately relieving the pain caused by the ulcers, along with taking some measures such as: avoiding smoking, avoid drinking of alcohol, coffee, and tea, and avoiding use of aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Other ways of treatment are by taking various medications such as acid blockers (also called histamine blockers; they reduce the quantity of hydrochloric acid that is released into the digestive tract, which lessens ulcer pain and supports healing), antibiotic medications; they are mostly prescribed to kill the bacteria, and also sometimes given in combination of other different antibiotics, or even Proton Pump Inhibitors, which are drugs which stop the “pumps” from secreting more acids.

At times, when these Proton Pump Inhibitors are taken in high dosages and over a prolonged period of time, it could result in the fracture of the hip, so mostly it is advisable to take calcium supplements as the treatment is on. In some severe cases, even surgery is required, such as vagotomy or gastrectomy. Sometimes, passing a suction tube through the nose to drain out the digestive juices is also adequate treatment. It is always best to visit a doctor, to be explained the surgical remedies offered for the treatment of ulcers.

To Your Health!