Peptic Ulcers

What are Peptic Ulcers?

Peptic ulcers are open sores in the lining of the stomach, the first part of the small intestine (duodenum), or in the oesophagus, developed when the acidic digestive fluids from the stomach erode the lining of the intestinal tract.

If left treated, peptic ulcers can lead to serious complications that include bleeding in the stomach and perforation (tear) of stomach wall. Peptic ulcers are named according to the locations of their occurrences:

  • Duodenal ulcers developed in the duodenum
  • Gastric ulcers developed in the stomach
  • Oesophageal ulcers developed in the lower part of the oesophagus

The most common causes include:

  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Infection caused by Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a bacteria found in the stomach lining which can weaken the protective coating, allowing the digestive juices to reach the stomach and the duodenum lining
  • Long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) such as aspirin and ibuprofen
  • Smoking

Peptic ulcers may or may not lead to any symptoms depending on the severity of patient’s condition. Common symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain or bloating
  • Black stools, which is a sign of bleeding
  • Burning sensation in the upper stomach between meals
  • Changes in appetite
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Vomiting blood

Treatment of peptic ulcers depends on the severity and cause of the conditions. Treatments or management of the disease may include:

  • Avoid the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID)
  • Refrain from smoking and alcohol consumption
  • Acid control medications to neutralise acid levels in the stomach
  • Antibiotics prescription to kill the bacteria if the patient is infected with H. Pylori
  • Surgery in severe cases to repair the stomach wall and stop bleeding

The most common complications of ulcers are bleeding and perforation of the stomach or duodenum wall.

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