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Peptic Ulcer Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

A peptic ulcer is a hole in the lining of the stomach or the duodenum, formed by the corrosion of lining by acidic digestive juices. This is a common disease affecting people of all ages and is painful in nature. Read on to know the symptoms, diagnosis, causes and treatment of this disease.
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The Peptic Ulcer Disease (ulcus pepticum), occurs in the form of a depression in any area of the digestive tract of the stomach or the duodenum (first part of the small intestine) or the esophageal tract. 'Peptic' is derived from 'pepsin' which is a protein-breaking stomach enzyme. Peptic ulcer is caused, when the digestive juices of these organs which are acidic in nature erode the digestive tract, creating a depression in the tract. A peptic ulcer occurring in the stomach is known as a 'gastric ulcer' or stomach ulcer, the one occurring in the duodenum is known as a 'duodenal ulcer', while the one associated with the esophagus is known as a 'esophageal ulcer'.

Symptoms
The most common symptoms of peptic ulcer, also known as dyspepsia, are severe burning pain and discomfort in the abdominal area, nausea, vomiting food or vomiting blood, belching, etc. In case of a gastric ulcer, the pain is usually experienced shortly after meals while in case of duodenal ulcer, the pain is experienced between meals or when on an empty stomach. The pain usually subsides with food intake or intake of antacids. Other symptoms include a considerable loss in appetite resulting in weight loss, weakness and fatigue, bloating of the abdomen, heartburn, indigestion, constipation, black or tarry stools accompanied by bleeding, etc. These symptoms vary from person to person in their intensity and frequency. So it is always advisable to visit a doctor for the precise diagnosis of the disease. Different methods of diagnosis like gastroscopy, endoscopy, blood and stool tests are conducted and the patients family and medical history is also taken into consideration.

Causes

Helicobacter pylori: Most ulcers are caused due to an infection by the H.pylori (Helicobacter pylori) bacteria found in the lining of the stomach which are capable of destroying the duodenum and stomach tissues when combined with the acidic digestive juices.

Other causes: An ulcer can occur when compounds like prostaglandins, which provide protection against ulceration are rendered useless by acid and pepsin. They also damage the mucus lining, the cells on the surface of the stomach and bicarbonates that help regulate the digestive juices.

Another major cause is the consumption of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, naproxen, ibuprofen, etc. These drugs hamper the ability of the stomach and the duodenum to shield themselves from acid and pepsin which leads to ulceration. Other causes include, excessive consumption of substances like caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Nicotine increases the concentration of acids in the stomach whereas alcohol can harm the mucus lining of the stomach. Consumption of spicy food is also considered to be a cause of peptic ulceration and it also aggravates the symptoms.

Treatment
Treatment for this disease is administered with a combination of medications and lifestyle changes. In case of an advanced stage of the disease, a surgery is adopted as the treatment method. Medications, for the treatment of this disease, is prescribed as a combination of antibiotics and a proton pump inhibitor, which suppresses the acids and at times antacids are also administered. Antacids like pantoprazole and esomeprazole, etc. are prescribed. These drugs eliminate the bacterial infection and the healing process takes place gradually. Patients are advised to bring about lifestyle changes like incorporating a balanced diet instead of unhealthy, spicy and acidic foods and to quit smoking and alcohol consumption.

Peptic ulcer disease can be cured completely and relapses can be avoided by taking the adequate measures under the advise of a doctor and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
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Published: June 9, 2009
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