Peptic Ulcers: Past and Future Perspectives

Peptic ulcer
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Peptic ulcers are painful sores that line the stomach and small intestine. There is not one cause of ulcers. However, research has shown that ulcers are the result of the imbalance of the digestive fluids in the stomach and small intestine. Most peptic ulcers are caused by an infection from a bacterium called helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). There are many different risk factors that can increase the risk for an ulcer.

Using certain painkillers such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ( NSAIDs), such as aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen. The excess acid production from tumors of the acid producing cells of the stomach can also increase the risk for developing an ulcer. Other risk factors include excessive drinking, smoking or chewing tobacco, a past serious illness, and radiation treatment to the area.

When you develop an ulcer, you may or may not have symptoms. Some would report of a gnawing or burning pain in the middle or upper stomach between meals or at night, bloating, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, darkened stool that may be a result of bleeding, vomiting of blood, weight loss, and severe pain of the mid to upper abdomen.

Most ulcers do heal on their own, and no medical treatment is needed. However, if the pain persists and the ulcer is not properly treated, ulcers can lead to serious health complications  such as perforation of the stomach, bleeding,  and taking NSAIDs can lead to an ulcer without any previous warning (this risk is especially specific towards the elderly and those with a previous history of having  an ulcer disease), and a gastric outlet obstruction from the scarring and swelling that obstructs the passageway that leads from the stomach to the small intestine.

There are certain groups of people that are more prone to ulcers. People that are infected with H. pylori bacterium, take NSAIDs (such as naproxen ibuprofen, or aspirin), have a family history of ulcers, have another disease such as liver, lung, or kidney disease, drink excessive amounts of alcohol, or are over the age of 50 are more likely to develop ulcers.

When your ulcer is detected, the doctor may give you acid blocking medication (similar to those that treat heartburn) for a short period of time to see of the symptoms would improve. If this does not work, then the doctor will recommend a procedure called upper endoscopy. This is then a small lighted tube is inserted endoscopically through the throat and into the stomach to look for any abnormalities. The doctor will recommend this when you have severe or reoccurring symptoms of an ulcer. If the ulcer is not properly treated, the ulcer can lead to a variety of serious health problems. There are many ways in which you can treat ulcers such as medications, lifestyle changes, and surgery. Lifestyle changes are usually changes in one’s life and daily activity that would prevent the development of an ulcer. Doctors recommend that if you smoke, or drink excessive amounts of alcohol- then stop.

If one’s ulcer development is caused by the NSAIDs, then the intake of these medications must be halted.

There are a variety of ulcer medications such as proton pump inhibitors (PPI). This reduces the acid levels and allows the ulcer to heal. Some examples of PPI include dexlansoprazole (Dexilant), esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid), omeprazole (Prilosec), pantoprazole (Protonix), rabeprazole (Aciphex), and omeprazole/sodium bicarbonate (Zegerid). Antibiotics can also be used if you have an H. pylori infection. There are multiple combinations of antibiotics that can be taken in one or two weeks along with PPI.

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