According to gastroenterology specialists, peptic ulcers are a common condition experienced by millions of people around the world. Depending on lifestyle and eating habits, there can be various causes for an ulcer. For example, many people never pay attention to a peptic ulcer in the early stage, waiting until the last moment. One of the main digestive problems is when you notice symptoms.
What are peptic ulcers?
Peptic ulcers develop in the lining of the stomach, lower oesophagus, or small intestine. They usually form due to inflammation caused by the H. pylori bacteria or stomach acids.
There are three types of peptic ulcers:
Gastric: ulcers that develop inside the stomach.
Esophageal: Ulcers that develop within the oesophagus.
Duodenal: Ulcers that develop in the upper section of the small intestine, called the duodenum.
Different factors cause the lining of the stomach, oesophagus, and small intestine to rupture. These include:
- Helicobacter pylori bacteria can cause an infection and inflammation of the stomach
- Frequent use of aspirin, ibuprofen, or other anti-inflammatory medications
- drink too much alcohol
- Stomach cancer
The most common symptom is burning abdominal pain that extends from the navel to the chest. This pain can be mild or severe. In some cases, the pain can even occur at night.
Peptic ulcers may not cause any symptoms in the early stages.
Other common signs include:
- Changes in appetite
- Bloody or dark stools
- unexplained weight loss
- Chest pain
There are two types of tests for diagnosing a peptic ulcer:
In this procedure, your gastroenterologist will insert a long tube with a camera through your oesophagus, stomach, and small intestine. Thanks to the micro camera, you can examine all these areas for ulcers. This instrument allows your gastroenterologist to extract a sample or biopsy to investigate and thus rule out bacteria.
Not all cases require an upper endoscopy. However, this procedure is recommended for people with an increased risk of stomach cancer, such as people over the age of 45 and those who experience:
- gastrointestinal bleeding
- Difficulty to swallow
- peptic ulcer diagnosis endoscopy
upper gastrointestinal series
An upper GI series refers to the set of x-ray images to see inside you. If you don’t have difficulty swallowing and are at low risk for stomach cancer, your gastroenterologist may recommend this test. During this procedure, you’ll drink a thick liquid called barium, and then an X-ray of your stomach, oesophagus, and small intestine is taken. The liquid will allow your gastroenterologist to find an ulcer and treat it.
If you have an infection caused by the H. pylori bacteria, your gastroenterologist will prescribe medications you’ll need to take for about two weeks. Medications include antibiotics to clear up infections and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) to reduce stomach acid.
Suppose your gastroenterologist determines that you do not have an infection with the bacteria mentioned above. In that case, they recommend taking medication for eight weeks to reduce stomach acid and help the ulcer heal.
With proper treatment, most peptic ulcers heal. However, you may not be cured if you stop taking prescribed medications or continue to smoke or drink alcohol during and after treatment.
Your gastroenterologist will schedule a follow-up appointment to assess your recovery. Additionally, you can perform additional tests to rule out stomach cancer and other gastrointestinal diseases.
Complications of a peptic ulcer
Untreated ulcers often get worse over time and can lead to more severe health complications, such as:
Perforation: A hole develops in the stomach lining or small intestine and causes an infection. One sign of a perforated ulcer is sudden, severe abdominal pain.
Internal bleeding: Bleeding ulcers can cause significant blood loss and are more likely to require hospitalisation. Signs of a bleeding ulcer are dizziness, vertigo, and black stools.
Scar tissue: It is a thick tissue that develops after an injury. This makes it difficult for food to pass through the digestive tract. Signs also include vomiting and weight loss.
peptic ulcer complications
All three complications are severe and may require surgery. Seek immediate medical attention if you also experience the following symptoms:
- Sudden and sharp abdominal pain
- Fainting and excessive sweating
- Vomiting or bloody stools
- touch sensitive abdomen
Certain lifestyles can reduce your risk of developing peptic ulcers :
- Do not drink more than two alcoholic beverages a day.
- Do not mix alcohol with medications.
- Instead, wash your hands frequently to avoid infections.
- Limit the use of ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin
- no smoking tobacco