What are Peptic Ulcers?
Peptic ulcers are open sores in your stomach (gastric ulcer) or upper small intestine (duodenal ulcer) that can cause pain, discomfort, and bleeding. The cells that make up the stomach lining are covered by a layer of mucus that protects the stomach against damage. If the protective lining within your stomach or small intestine is compromised then the acid from your stomach erodes the tissue behind the protective lining.
Although anyone can develop gastric ulcers, some people may have a higher risk if they have a family history of gastric ulcers or are 50 years or older.
What Causes Peptic Ulcers?
As mentioned above, a peptic ulcer happens when the stomach or small intestine’s organ tissue is exposed to pepsin which is commonly called stomach acid. The stomach acid then erodes the organ’s tissue. There are two main reasons, however, as to why the protective lining in the stomach becomes eroded.
Helicobacter pylori can enter your system in a variety of ways, but when it enters it can attack the mucus lining of the stomach. This creates holes in that lining and can then create ulcers. If you have H. pylori your physician can prescribe antibiotics to help destroy the harmful bacteria.
Certain pain relievers like aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can block your body from making a chemical that helps protect the inner walls of your stomach and small intestine.
Other pain medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) will not lead to the development of stomach and small intestine ulcers. That is why physicians recommend taking pain relievers in small and controlled amounts.
Other risk factors for developing peptic ulcers include:
- Drinking alcohol
- Eating spicy and acidic foods
- Regular use of NSAIDs painkillers
What are the Symptoms of Peptic Ulcers?
Due to the fact that peptic ulcers are essentially open sores in your stomach or small intestine you will often feel a burning pain and discomfort between your abdominal area.
Other symptoms of peptic ulcers include:
- Bloody stool
- Loss of appetite
- Unwanted weight loss
- Acid Reflux and heartburn
- Fatty food intolerance
If you experience bloody stool or vomit, contact your doctor as soon as possible. If you experience any combination of the above symptoms, or take over the counter antacids that relieve your pain, but the pain returns, contact your nearest gastroenterologist.
What are the Treatments for Peptic Ulcers?
Peptic Ulcers can be treated and subside over time. Common treatments for peptic ulcers include:
- Antibiotics to kill H. pylori
- Medications to reduce acid production (H-2 blockers)
- Antacids to neutralize stomach acid
- Cytoprotective agents (medication to protect the lining of your stomach and small intestine)
- Reduce the use of certain pain medications
- Endoscopy to cauterize bleeding arteries