Peptic Ulcer Disease: What You Need to Know for Better Digestive Health
Peptic ulcer disease is a painful condition that affects millions of people worldwide. The constant burning pain in the stomach or upper abdomen can be overwhelming and impact daily life in significant ways. The emotional toll of this disease cannot be understated, as the chronic nature of the disease can lead to anxiety, depression, and feelings of hopelessness. It is crucial that those who suffer from this disease receive a proper diagnosis and treatment to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Let’s learn about the types, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of peptic ulcer disease.
What is peptic ulcer disease?
Peptic ulcer disease is a common condition affecting the digestive system. It is characterised by the formation of open sores or ulcers in the lining of the stomach, oesophagus, or duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). These ulcers are usually painful and can lead to serious complications if left untreated.
What are the types of peptic ulcer disease?
There are two main types of peptic ulcer disease:
- Gastric Ulcers: These occur in the stomach lining and usually develop in the lower or upper part of the stomach.
- Duodenal Ulcer: Ulcers that develop in the duodenum are known as duodenal ulcers. They are more common than gastric ulcers and occur in the first part of the small intestines. Duodenal ulcer symptoms include burning pain, bloating, heartburn and others. Duodenal ulcer pain location is particularly between the belly button and breastbone.
What are the causes of peptic ulcer disease?
There are several causes for peptic ulcers, including:
- H. pylori Infection: H. pylori is a type of bacteria that can cause inflammation and damage to the stomach or duodenum lining, causing ulcers.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Regular and long-term use of NSAIDs such as aspirin and ibuprofen can irritate the lining of the stomach and duodenum, leading to ulcers.
- Smoking: It can increase the risk of developing peptic ulcer disease and can also delay the healing of ulcers.
- Alcohol: Drinking alcohol irritates the lining of the stomach and duodenum and can lead to formation of ulcers.
- Genetics: Some people may be genetically predisposed to developing peptic ulcer disease.
- Stress: While stress is not a direct cause of peptic ulcer disease, it can exacerbate existing ulcers and delay the healing process.
- Hyperacidity: An increase in the production of stomach acid can damage the lining of the stomach and duodenum and cause ulcers.
These factors can increase the risk of developing peptic ulcer disease, but not everyone who experiences them will develop ulcers. A combination of multiple factors may be required for the development of peptic ulcer disease.
What are the symptoms of peptic ulcer disease?
The most common peptic ulcer symptoms include:
- Abdominal Pain
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Loss of Appetite
- Weight Loss
- Bloating and Burping
- Blood in the Stool
Diagnosis of peptic ulcers
There are several methods used to diagnose peptic ulcer disease, including:
- Endoscopy: A thin, flexible tube with a camera on the end (endoscope) is passed through the mouth and into the stomach and duodenum. This allows the doctor to examine the lining of the digestive tract and look for ulcers.
- Biopsy: During an endoscopy, a small tissue sample (biopsy) may be taken from the lining of the digestive tract. This sample can be examined under a microscope to check for the presence of H. pylori bacteria.
- Blood tests: A blood test can be performed to check for the presence of antibodies to H. pylori bacteria.
- Stool tests: A stool sample may be collected to check for the presence of H. pylori bacteria.
- Barium X-ray: This is a special X-ray in which the patient drinks a liquid containing barium, which coats the lining of the digestive tract and makes ulcers more visible on X-ray images.
If an ulcer is suspected, further testing may be required to determine the underlying cause and guide treatment.
Did you know that sometimes ulcers can be asymptomatic?
How can peptic ulcers be treated?
The peptic ulcer treatment depends on the underlying cause of the ulcers. Treatment may involve a combination of medications and lifestyle modifications. Here are some common treatments for peptic ulcers:
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): These drugs reduce the production of stomach acid and help to promote healing of the ulcers.
- H2 blockers: These drugs reduce the amount of acid produced by the stomach, which can help to alleviate symptoms and promote healing.
- Antibiotics: If H. pylori bacteria are detected, a course of antibiotics may be prescribed to eliminate the infection.
- Avoiding NSAIDs: If NSAIDs are contributing to the development of ulcers, they should be avoided.
- Smoking cessation: Quitting smoking can help to promote healing of ulcers and reduce the risk of complications.
- Avoiding alcohol: Alcohol can irritate the lining of the stomach and duodenum, and should be avoided or consumed in moderation.
- Stress management: Stress can exacerbate existing ulcers, and stress management techniques such as yoga or meditation may be helpful.
In rare cases, surgery may be required to treat peptic ulcer disease. This may involve removing the damaged tissue or creating a barrier to protect the ulcer from stomach acid.
Peptic ulcer disease is a chronic condition, and ongoing management is required to prevent complications and maintain remission.
How to prevent peptic ulcer disease?
The following steps can help prevent peptic ulcer disease:
- Practising good hygiene
- Avoiding NSAIDs
- Managing stress
- Quitting smoking
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Eating a healthy diet
Peptic ulcer disease is a condition that can have a severe impact on one’s life if left untreated. It is not merely a stomach ache that goes away on its own. It serves as a reminder that our bodies require proper care and attention. Your health is precious, and it is something that requires effort to maintain.
By taking simple steps such as washing hands regularly, avoiding harmful medications, caring for mental health, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake, and consuming a healthy diet, one can prevent the disease from developing or recurring. One must not take any risks with their well-being. It is advised to seek immediate medical attention in case of any discomfort or pain.
- Peptic Ulcers
- Peptic Ulcer Disease
- Stomach Ulcer
- Stomach(Peptic) Ulcers
About Author –
Dr. Kiran Peddi,Senior Consultant Medical Gastroenterologist, Yashoda Hospitals - Hyderabad
MRCP (UK), FRCP (Lon), CCT Gastro (UK), Fellowship in Advanced Endoscopy and IBD (Aus)