Peptic ulcer

What is peptic ulcer?

    Peptic ulcer disease is a gastrointestinal condition characterized by the development of ulcers, or open sores, in the lining of the digestive tract. The term "peptic" refers to its association with the digestive process, originating from pepsin, the primary digestive enzyme produced in the stomach.

    Within your stomach, pepsin and stomach acid actively aid in breaking down food chemically. These digestive juices, including acids, also reach the initial segment of the small intestine, known as the duodenum. While essential for digestion, these juices possess high corrosive properties.

    Usually, the gastrointestinal tract is shielded by a protective mucous lining, particularly robust in the stomach and duodenum. However, this protective barrier weakens in peptic ulcer disease, allowing digestive juices to breach the lining.

    Ulcers, characterized by erosions penetrating all three layers of the mucous lining (mucosa), predominantly manifest in the stomach or duodenum due to the heightened activity of gastric juices in these regions. Although less common, peptic ulcers can also occur elsewhere along the gastrointestinal tract.

What are the different types of Peptic ulcers?

    Peptic ulcer disease manifests in two primary forms:

    1. Gastric ulcer: This type occurs on the stomach lining.

    2. Duodenal ulcer: This ulcer develops at the upper portion of the small intestine, known as the duodenum, responsible for the digestion and absorption of nutrients from ingested food.

What are the causes of Peptic Ulcer?

    Peptic ulcers develop when the acidic digestive juices erode the inner lining of the stomach or small intestine, forming painful open sores that may bleed.

    The digestive tract is usually protected by a layer of mucous against acid damage. However, increased acid levels or reduced mucous production can contribute to ulcer formation.

    Common causes of peptic ulcers include:

    1. Bacterial infection: Helicobacter pylori bacteria in the mucous layer covering the stomach and small intestine can lead to inflammation of the inner stomach lining, resulting in ulceration. While H. pylori infections usually cause no harm, they can provoke ulcer development.

    2. Regular use of certain pain relievers: Continuous intake of aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can irritate or inflame the stomach and small intestine linings. Common NSAIDs include ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and ketoprofen. Acetaminophen is an exception, as it does not contribute to ulcer formation.

    3. Other medications: Certain medications, when taken in conjunction with NSAIDs, can significantly increase the risk of developing ulcers. These medications include steroids, anticoagulants, low-dose aspirin, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and osteoporosis medications like alendronate and risedronate.

What are the risk factors of Peptic ulcer?

    Apart from the risks associated with NSAID use, certain factors may further elevate the likelihood of developing peptic ulcers:

    1. Smoking: Smoking can heighten the risk of peptic ulcers, particularly in individuals infected with H. pylori bacteria.

    2. Alcohol consumption: Alcohol consumption can irritate and erode the protective mucous lining of the stomach, leading to increased production of stomach acid.

    3. Untreated stress: Unmanaged stress may exacerbate ulcer symptoms and hinder healing.

    4. Spicy foods: While not directly causing ulcers, consuming spicy foods can exacerbate ulcer symptoms and delay healing.

    While these factors alone do not directly cause ulcers, they can worsen symptoms and prolong healing.

What are the symptoms of Peptic Ulcer?

    1. Burning stomach pain: The most prevalent symptom, exacerbated by stomach acid and often alleviated by consuming specific foods or acid-reducing medications. Pain tends to worsen between meals and at night.

    2. Feeling of fullness, bloating, or belching: Sensations of fullness or bloating in the abdomen, accompanied by excessive belching.

    3. Intolerance to fatty foods: Difficulty digesting fatty foods, leading to discomfort or pain.

    4. Heartburn: A burning sensation in the chest or throat, often after meals or when lying down.

    5. Nausea: Feelings of sickness or an inclination to vomit.

    While many individuals with peptic ulcers may not experience symptoms, severe cases may manifest with the following signs:

    1. Vomiting or vomiting blood: Vomit may contain red or black blood.

    2. Dark blood in stools, or black or tarry stools: Indicative of gastrointestinal bleeding.

    3. Trouble breathing: Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.

    4. Feeling faint: Sensation of light-headedness or fainting.

    5. Unexplained weight loss: Significant weight loss without intentional changes in diet or exercise.

    6. Appetite changes: Altered appetite patterns, including reduced desire to eat

When to see a doctor

    Consult your doctor if you experience any of the severe signs or symptoms mentioned above. Additionally, seek medical attention if over-the-counter antacids and acid blockers provide temporary relief, but the pain recurs.

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