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Peptic Ulcer: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

What is Peptic Ulcer?

Peptic ulcers are open sores that develop on the inside lining of your stomach and the upper portion of your small intestine. It occurs when stomach acid damages the lining of the digestive tract. Common causes include the bacteria H. Pylori and anti-inflammatory pain relievers including aspirin. Two types of the condition are:

  • Gastric. You get this on your stomach lining or also known as the first part of the small intestine
  • Duodenal. This appears at the top end of the small intestine, an organ that digests and absorbs much of the food you eat.

Stomach acid makes the pain worse, as does having an empty stomach. The pain can often be relieved by eating certain foods that control stomach acid or by taking an acid-reducing medication.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Burning stomach pain
  • Nausea and heartburn
  • Feeling of fullness
  • Bloating or belching
  • Intolerance to fatty foods

Less occurring but severe symptoms include:

  • Vomiting or vomiting blood 
  • Dark blood in stools
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Appetite changes
  • Dark and tarry stools
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fainting 
  • Severe nausea or vomiting

If you have any of the severe symptoms listed above, see your doctor immediately. See your doctor if over-the-counter antacids and acid blockers don’t relieve your pain.

What Causes Peptic Ulcer?

It occurs when acid in the digestive tract eats away at the inner surface of the stomach or small intestine. The acid can create a painful open sore that may bleed. A mucous layer covers the digestive tract and protects it from acid. Ulcers may develop if there is an increase in acid or a decrease in mucus. Other causes include:

  • A bacterium. H. pylori bacteria commonly live in the mucous layer that covers and protects tissues that line the stomach and small intestine. It can cause inflammation of the stomach’s inner layer, producing an ulcer.
  • Use of pain relievers. Taking aspirin, as well as certain over-the-counter and prescription pain medications called NSAIDs can irritate or inflame the lining of your stomach and small intestine.
  • Other medications. Taking NSAIDs along with steroids, SSRIs, and anticoagulants can also cause or trigger your stomach acid to cause the condition.

How to Diagnose Peptic Ulcer?

To determine the diagnosis, your doctor will ask about your medical history and perform physical and diagnostic tests such as:

  1. Endoscopy. Your doctor may use a scope to examine your upper digestive system to look for ulcers. Endoscopies are more likely to be recommended if you are older, have bleeding issues, have lost weight recently, or have trouble swallowing and eating.
  2. Upper gastrointestinal series. The upper digestive system is scanned with X-rays to create images of the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine.
  3. Laboratory tests for H. pylori. Your doctor may recommend tests to determine whether the bacterium H. pylori is present in your body. This is determined using a blood, stool, or breath test. The breath test is the most accurate. If you are taking an antacid before the testing for H. pylori, make sure to let your doctor know. 

Treatment and Management of Peptic Ulcer

The treatment for this condition focuses on dealing with the cause such as the H.pylori bacteria and reducing discomfort using pain relievers. Antibiotic medications are used to kill the bacteria along with medications that block the production of stomach acids.

Medication Used for Peptic Ulcer

Cimetidine. It is used to treat ulcers of the stomach and intestines and prevent them from coming back after they have healed. It works by reducing the amount of acid in your stomach. This medication is also available without a prescription.

Lifestyle and Home Remedies for Peptic Ulcer

  • Consider switching pain relievers if you use pain relievers regularly. Opt for Tylenol than NSAIDs. 
  • Control stress because it can worsen the signs and symptoms of your condition. 
  • Don’t smoke because it can interfere with the protective lining of the stomach, making your stomach more susceptible to the development of inflammation.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol because it can irritate and wear down the mucous lining in your stomach and intestines which leads to bleeding. 

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