Peptic ulcers, also known as peptic ulcer disease or PUD, are open sores or mucosal erosions that develop on the inner lining of the esophagus, stomach or the upper portion of the small intestine. It is characterized by severe abdominal pain, bloating and abdominal distention, nausea, loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, hematemesis or vomiting of blood, and melena or foul tarry-smelling stool.
The major causative factor of peptic ulcer disease is a bacterial infection by Helicobacter pylori. Another major cause is the chronic use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs. NSAIDs are medications for painful inflammatory conditions in the body like arthritis. Aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and etodolac are a few of the examples of this class of drugs. These drugs cause stomach ulcers by interfering with prostaglandins, the substances which are important in helping the gastrointestinal linings resist corrosive acid damage. Cigarette smoking also causes ulcer formation. It doesn’t only trigger ulcer formation, but also increases the risk of ulcer complications such as ulcer bleeding, stomach obstruction and perforation of the lining which causes peritonitis. Furthermore, cigarette smoking is one of the leading causes of medication treatment failure in treating ulcers.
Knowing the causes of peptic ulcer, it is easier to determine the preventive measures. Preventive measures are actually just lifestyle modifications. First, choosing a healthy diet may result to relief from the pain of a stomach ulcer. Choosing a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, protein, and whole grains will make it easier for your body to heal the ulcer. Second, try switching pain relievers or NSAIDs by asking your physician. For chronic use of pain relievers or anti-inflammatory drugs, ask your doctor for better treatment options. Third, eat a full meal before every medication intake to prevent irritating the lining of your GIT. Fourth, control your stress because this may worsen the signs and symptoms of peptic ulcer. Some stress cannot be avoided, but you can learn to cope with stress with exercise and other stress-relieving activities. Fifth, stop smoking. Smoking may interfere with the protective lining of the stomach, making your stomach more susceptible to the development of an ulcer. Smoking also increases the production of stomach acid. Lastly, avoid alcohol. Excessive use of alcohol can irritate and erode the mucous lining in your stomach and intestines, causing inflammation and bleeding.