A peptic ulcer is an erosion or lesion in the lining of the stomach or intestine that occurs when the protective layer of mucous membranes deteriorates in certain places, thus allowing the stomach’s natural stomach acids to penetrate.
Most of these ulcers are caused by bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). The second leading cause of peptic ulcers is the use of ASA (acetylsalicylic acid) and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen and ibuprofen.
People at higher risk for NSAID-related ulcers include people:
- the elders;
- with a history of peptic ulcer disease
- who also take glucocorticoids (e.g., prednisone, dexamethasone)
- taking high doses of NSAIDs or ASA;
- with multiple medical conditions
- who use more than one NSAID or ASA.
Symptoms and Complications
The most common symptom of duodenal and gastric ulcers is throbbing or burning pain in the abdomen, more precisely between the sternum and navel, which sometimes looks like burns or heartburn.
The discomfort can be felt anywhere between belly and chest and typically:
- Increases to an empty stomach (between one meal and another and at night),
- Decreases or passes to full stomach (after a meal),
- Reductions or passes upon intake of antacids,
It has a duration varying from a few minutes to several hours, can go and come for several months.
Among the less common symptoms we remember:
- Nausea and vomiting,
- Decreased appetite and decreased weight
When to call the doctor
An ulcer is not a disorder that can be treated with self-medication remedies, and it is, therefore, necessary to contact your doctor in case of doubt about your presence.
Diagnosis of the disease
Your doctor will ask you to undergo the following test for diagnosis of ulcer:
- Blood test
- Breath test
- Feces examination
- Radiography of the upper gastrointestinal tract
- Computed tomography
Treatment and Prevention
Medical treatment consists of eliminating H. pylori bacteria in infected individuals. The majority of peptic ulcers caused by H. pylori are cured with a combination of acid-secreting drugs called proton pump inhibitors (e.g., omeprazole, lansoprazole, esomeprazole, pantoprazole), rabeprazole) and two antibiotics (clarithromycin plus amoxicillin or metronidazole), all taken twice daily for 1 to 2 weeks.