Peptic ulcers, also generally known as stomach ulcers, are painful sores in the stomach lining. For clarity, it is a condition in which painful sores or ulcers develop in the stomach lining or in the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). It is a common disease in Western countries, and an estimated one in ten people in Western countries will have a type of peptic ulcer at a time in their lives.
Stomach ulcers occur when the thick layer of mucus that protects your stomach from digestive juices reduces. This allows the digestive acids(gastric acid) to eat away at the tissues that line the stomach, causing an ulcer. Ordinarily, a thick layer of mucus, mucosa, protects the stomach lining from the adverse effect of its digestive juices. However, many things can weaken this protective layer, allowing stomach acid or gastric acid to damage the tissue. It can sometimes lead to internal bleeding, which means you’ll have to visit a hospital for blood transfusions.
Furthermore, peptic ulcers are generally any ulcers that affect the stomach and small intestines, and you can have ulcers at any age, but the chances increase as you get older.
Types of stomach ulcers
(a) Gastric ulcer: This type of ulcer develops in the stomach lining.
(b) Duodenal ulcer: This ulcer forms in the upper region of the small intestine.
Generally, ulcers may be cured easily, but they can become severe without proper treatment and lead to other complications.
Symptoms of peptic ulcers
Many symptoms are related to stomach ulcers, and the severity of the symptoms depends on the severity of the ulcer. Pain is generally the main symptom of both gastric and duodenal ulcers. However, the pain tends to be more intense and can last for a few minutes or maybe hours, especially when your stomach is empty. Besides that, indigestion, also known as dyspepsia, can also be a symptom of stomach ulcers, but it’s worth noting that not all peptic ulcers cause indigestion.
Other symptoms of peptic ulcer include;
- burping or acid reflux
- dull pain in the stomach
- nausea and vomiting
- pain which may increase when you eat or take antacids
- blood or dark poop(due to bleeding)
- feeling easily full
- weight loss
- Intolerance to fatty foods
- Breathing problems
What are the causes of stomach ulcers?
The following are causes of peptic ulcers;
Helicobacter pylori or H. pylori has been implicated as the leading cause of most peptic ulcers. These bacteria often live in the mucous layer that protects and covers the tissues that line the stomach and small intestine and sometimes cause inflammation of the stomach inner layers, thereby causing ulcers. In addition, it has is believed that Helicobacter pylori spread primarily through person-to-person contact, food, water, etc.
Excessive Use of NSAIDs
The excessive use of Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, commonly known as NSAIDs, is the second most common cause of peptic ulcers. These drugs include common medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. The risk of ulcer then increases when these drugs are taken in high doses.
Yes, smoking cigarettes causes peptic ulcers. Aside from that, it can also increase a person’s risk of developing complications from ulcers such as bleeding, stomach perforation, etc. If you are treating an ulcer, you should also abstain from cigarettes as it actually prevents ulcers from healing.
Zollinger-Ellison syndrome may also cause peptic ulcers. This is a rare disease in which hormones(gastrin) signal the stomach to produce excess acid, eventually damaging the stomach’s lining.
Treatment of Peptic ulcers
The most known common cause of stomach ulcers is the bacterium Helicobacter pylori or H. pylori. Ulcers may also be caused by painkillers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin. In addition, stomach ulcers are often treated with antibiotics and medications to reduce and stop excessive stomach acid production. Some proven home remedies may be helpful in managing a peptic ulcer. However, if your ulcer results in internal bleeding, visit your doctor to treat it during an endoscopy procedure by injecting medications into it. Your doctor could also use cauterization (burning tissue) to stop and seal the internal bleeding.
Below are medications doctors use to treat ulcers;
Antibiotics: These are drugs or medications that kill bacteria. Doctors use them to primarily treat Helicobacter pylori.
Proton pump inhibitors: Commonly known as PPI, they’re drugs that reduce acid, which allows the ulcer to heal. PPIs include Prilosec, Prevacid, Aciphex, and Nexium.
Histamine receptor blockers (H2 blockers): These medications work like PPI, they also reduce acid production, and they include Tagamet, Pepcid, Zantac, etc