What are Peptic Ulcers?
A peptic ulcer is a serious condition that affects people over 30 years and which are open sores developed in your stomach mucosa (gastric ulcers) and in the upper portion of your small intestine (duodenal ulcers). Peptic ulcers are caused by the aggressive stimulus caused by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) and pain killers, including aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Peptic Ulcers Signs and Symptoms
Peptic ulcers don’t always cause symptoms. However, when they do, the most common and typical symptom is stomach pain and burning sensation between meals. Some other symptoms related to peptic ulcers include:
- Bloating sensation
- Nausea and vomiting
Also, symptoms like vomiting blood, feeling faint, unexplained weight loss and dark blood in stools might indicate a perforated peptic ulcer, which is a very serious and deathly complication.
Peptic Ulcers Common Causes
Your stomach is normally covered by a mucus-lined barrier that protects it from aggressions like digestive juice. Certain conditions cause the increase of acid or the decreased of the mucus barrier, which leads to the development of the progressive destruction of the stomach mucosa and the eventual open sore that cause the typical symptoms of peptic ulcers.
Some of the conditions and risk factors related to peptic ulcers include:
- pylori infection
- Frequent use of painkillers like aspirin and NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen, ketoprofen, and others)
- Combination with other medications like steroids, anticoagulants antidepressants, and alendronate
Although alcohol, smoking, and stress are not direct causes of peptic ulcers, they do can make your symptoms more severe.
Peptic Ulcers Diagnosis
Your doctor might suspect you have a peptic ulcer based on your symptoms and physical exam. However, additional tests are required to make a proper diagnosis, including:
- Lab tests to detect H. pylori, which can be performed either as breath tests, blood tests or tissue sample tests.
- Upper endoscopy. Your doctor will introduce a large tube attached to a tiny camera through your mouth, in order to look inside your upper digestive tract for signs of an ulcer. Additionally, your doctor might take a tissue sample (biopsy) to detect the presence of H. pylori or any other abnormality like malignant cells.
Peptic Ulcers Treatment
The most important part about the treatment of peptic ulcers is treating the underlying cause if detected and possible. Additionally, your doctor might recommend some other treatment option to reduce your symptoms and to improve the healing of the ulcer.
Medication used to treat peptic ulcers include:
- Antibiotic medication to eradicate H. pylori. Your doctor might recommend a combination of some antibiotics such as clarithromycin, amoxicillin, and metronidazole.
- Medication to block the acidic stomach production. These drugs include proton pump inhibitors like omeprazole, esomeprazole or lansoprazole, which block the action of the stomach cells that produce acid, promoting your mucosal healing and need to be taken for a long period at high doses.
- Antacids, in order to neutralize your stomach acid.