What are Peptic Ulcers?

Dr. Sneha Ganatra
July 11, 2020

Peptic ulcers is a common health problem among individuals of various age groups. Peptic ulcers are sores that develop as a result of inflammation caused by the bacteria H. pylori, as well as from erosion from stomach acids. Frequent use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is also proven to cause peptic ulcers

peptic ulcer

Peptic Ulcer Types

  • Gastric ulcer: Develop on the inside of the stomach, on the lining.
  • Esophageal ulcer: Develop inside the esophagus
  • Duodenal ulcer: Develop in the upper section of the small intestines, called the duodenum

Peptic Ulcer Causes

The primary cause for peptic ulcers is Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a type of bacteria that can cause a stomach infection and inflammation. Peptic Ulcers can also result from:

  1. The long term use of aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen, especially for individuals over the age of 60
  2. Smoking and drinking too much alcohol renders the esophagus and stomach lining causing frequent peptic ulcers.
  3. Radiation Therapy
  4. Stress and spicy foods can worsen the condition, but they don’t cause peptic ulcers.

Peptic Ulcer Symptoms

The most common symptom of peptic ulcer is burning stomach pain. Other symptoms can include:

  1. Indigestion
  2. Nausea
  3. Feeling of fullness or bloating
  4. Heartburn
  5. Fatty food intolerance
  6. Dark stools, especially with blood
  7. Pain shortly after eating
  8. Unexplained weight loss.

Peptic Ulcer Diagnosis

After taking a medical history and physical exam, your doctor can order for certain tests to confirm peptic ulcer.

  • Lab tests: To check the presence of H.Pylori, samples of blood, urine or breath can be taken.
  • Endoscopy: In this, your doctor inserts a long hollow tube with a camera (endoscope) down from your throat into your stomach and small intestine to examine the area for ulcers.
  • Barium swallow: Series of X-rays are taken on swallowing a milky white liquid containing barium that coats the digestive tract to make the ulcers visible.

Peptic Ulcer Treatment

The treatment depends on the underlying cause of the peptic ulcers. Usually, it involves the antibiotics medications to kill the H. Pylori bacterium. It can also include medications that block acid production and promote healing; PPIs that are proton pump inhibitors along with medications that protect the lining of your stomach and small intestine. 

The treatment also involves lifestyle modifications like:

  1. To quit smoking
  2. To drink less alcohol and caffeine.
  3. To avoid foods which are spicy and other stimulating items.
  4. To control stress
  5. To include a healthy diet and inclusion of probiotics
  6. To get enough sleep

Peptic Ulcer Complications

If left untreated, the peptic ulcer can cause:

  1. Internal bleeding makes one feel light-headed and dizzy. Black or bloody stools are also a common sign of internal peptic ulcer bleeding
  2. Infection caused by perforation of the stomach or small intestine results in sudden and extreme abdominal pain.
  3. Scar tissue that results in blockage of food in the digestive tract ultimately leading to vomiting and sudden weight loss.