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What is it?
Peptic Ulcer is the medical condition where open sores grow in the lining of the stomach, small intestine or lower esophagus.

Peptic Ulcer Disease

There are two types of peptic ulcer:

  • Gastric Ulcers are found in the inside of the stomach and
  • Duodenal Ulcers usually develop in the upper portion of the small intestine called the duodenum.

Causes
Some of the causes of Peptic ulcers are:

  • It is most commonly caused by the bacteria called H.pylori
  • Prolonged use of certain medications such as aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Smoking and intake of alcohol are also a cause for this disease.
  • Stress, as well as spicy food, can worsen peptic ulcer

Symptoms
Some of the commonly noted symptoms of Peptic Ulcers are as follows,

  • Burning pain in the stomach
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Indigestion

Diagnosis
The doctors usually diagnose for peptic ulcer by performing one or more of the following diagnostic tests:

  • Laboratory tests that include blood, stool or breath test for indicating the presence of bacteria H.pylori.
  • Endoscopy is a procedure where a hollow tube with a lens at the end, called an endoscope, is passed down the throat into the esophagus, stomach and the small intestine to look for ulcers. If the presence of ulcers is confirmed, a small tissue sample is collected and examined in a lab.
  • Upper Gastrointestinal (GI) series, also called barium swallow, is the procedure where a white liquid containing barium is given to the patient to swallow, which coats the digestive tract making it visible to identify ulcers. Then a series of X-rays of the upper digestive system is done to get images of the esophagus, stomach, and the small intestine.

Treatment
Some of the available treatment methods for peptic ulcer include,

  • Antibiotics: If H.pylori is present, certain combinations of antibiotics that include amoxicillin, clarithromycin etc. are prescribed to the patient that will kill the bacterium present in the digestive tract. Other medications like proton pump inhibitors might also be prescribed along with these antibiotics to reduce stomach acid.
  • Acid Blocker Medications: such as ranitidine (Zantac), famotidine (Pepcid) etc might be prescribed to relieve ulcer pain by reducing the stomach acid that is pumped into the digestive tract, thus helping in the healing process.
  • Certain medications that include sucralfate (Carafate) and misoprostol (Cytotec) are given to protect the lining of the digestive tract. Antacids are also given to neutralize stomach acid as well as relieve from pain.

Complications

  • In some cases, a follow-up endoscopy is performed to ensure the peptic ulcers are healed. If the ulcer persists even after medication, it is called refractory ulcers. Different medications are given to treat this type of cancer.
  • If an ulcer goes untreated, it may lead to serious health issues that include perforation, which is a hole in the lining of the digestive tract, internal bleeding, and scarring of tissue making it difficult for the passage of food. In these cases, urgent medical assistance is required sometimes leading to surgery.


Risk Factors

  • Smoking increases the risk of ulcers if the person is affected by H.pylori
  • Alcohol intake increases the production of stomach acids by eroding the mucous lining.
  • Eating a lot of spicy food may increase the risk of developing an ulcer
  • Stress may also be a factor that contributes to peptic ulcers.

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