Peptic ulcer or commonly called as ulcer is erosion of the mucosal layer lining the stomach, oesophagus and the duodenum. Peptic ulcer of the stomach is gastric ulcer, oesophagus is oesophageal ulcer and duodenum is duodenal ulcer. Gastric ulcers are more common than the other ulcers.
Peptic ulcers in stomach are caused by an infection with bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori). Another common cause is the regular use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Smoking, drinking excessive alcohol and uncontrolled stress may increase the risk of developing peptic ulcers.
Small peptic ulcers do not cause any symptoms. Some ulcers can result in bleeding, peritonitis and scar tissue formation that can obstruct the passage of food through the digestive tract.
The most common symptom of an ulcer is a burning pain in your stomach. The pain may be felt anywhere between the breastbone and belly button. You will often feel the pain when the stomach is empty, and is relieved on eating or by taking medications. Pain may sometime wake you in the middle of the night. Other symptoms of peptic ulcers may include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and unexplained loss of weight. Blood may appear in the vomit or stool.
Peptic ulcer disease can be diagnosed by certain tests such as:
- Oesophagogastroduodenoscopy: Oesophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) is an examination of the stomach and small intestine using an endoscope, a thin tube with a camera on the end. The endoscope is inserted down your throat and into your oesophagus, stomach and small intestine. During EGD, your doctor may take tissue samples to check for the presence of H. pylori
- X-ray of upper digestive system: A series of X-rays are taken after you swallow a preparation containing barium which coats the wall of the upper digestive tract and makes an ulcer more visible
- Haemoglobin blood test: This test measures the amount of haemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen, to check for anaemia
- Stool guaiac test: This test determines blood in the stool which is not commonly visible
Peptic ulcers can be treated using various medications and in some cases with surgical correction. Antibiotics may be used to eradicate H. pylori, anti-ulcer medications are used to inhibit the acid secretions and to heal the ulcers, and some medications help protect the mucosal layer. In cases of bleeding ulcers, EGD may be performed and surgery is recommended when EGD fails to stop the bleeding or in cases of perforated ulcers.
Your physician may advise you to quit smoking, avoid or limit the alcohol consumption and avoid overuse of NSAID’s to prevent the development of peptic ulcers.