Peptic Ulcer

What is a Peptic Ulcer?

Peptic Ulcer occur when the stomach lining develops open sores. They can appear in the small intestine, too, especially in the upper area.  There are two kinds of peptic ulcers – gastric and duodenal. Duodenal ulcers are found in the upper area of the duodenum or the small intestine.  Gastric ulcers are the ones that appear in the stomach.

Peptic ulcers can come from a bacterial infection of Helicobacter pylori (also called H. pylori).  Peptic ulcers have also been known to result from the over use of over-the-counter painkillers like Aspirin and ibuprofen.  Contrary to belief, stress does not cause peptic ulcers, although it can aggravate them and make symptoms worse.

What are the Symptoms of a Peptic Ulcer?

One of the first things you may notice if you have a peptic ulcer is burning pain in your stomach. You may find that is worse when you have not eaten. Late nights and early morning before you have eaten is often the worst times. You may also find that fatty foods make the pain worse. Nausea, heartburn, and feeling bloated are other common symptoms.

Less common symptoms include blood in stool (or black stool) or in vomit, faintness, difficulty breathing, and changes in appetite.

Peptic Ulcers Causes

These types of ulcers develop when acid in the stomach begins to corrode the inner parts of the stomach or the small intestines. This acid can create an open sore that can sometimes bleed.

Once the acid in the stomach is higher than the mucous coat meant to prevent corrosion, an individual is likely to develop an ulcer. Here are some of the causes that can lead to such a scenario.

  • Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a bacterium that lives in the mucous region. Although it causes no problems, it can sometimes cause inflammations in the stomach lining leading to an infection and finally an ulcer.
  • Certain kinds of pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can aggravate the stomach walls. Statistics show that older adults who take these drugs are commonly reported to have peptic ulcers.
  • Excessive drinking and smoking. Chemicals found in these products are not only harmful to the stomach lining but also the entire body.
  • It’s also been established that radiation therapy can cause this type of ulcer.

How is a Peptic Ulcer Treated?

The treatment of a peptic ulcer will depend on what the cause of the ulcer is. If the cause is too much pain killing medication, treatment would involve decreasing or eliminating use of the medication. If the cause is the H. pylori bacterium, the treatment would be focused on eliminating it.

Medications are often prescribed to treat peptic ulcers. This can include antibiotics like clarithromycin, tindazole, levofloxacin, tetracycline, metronidazole, or amoxicillin. Doctors usually start with a course of medication for two weeks. Doctors may also prescribe proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) to promote healing and to block further acid production. This can be prescription or over-the-counter medications like Prilosec, Nexium, Protonix, or Prevacid.

Acid blockers (histamine blockers) are another common way of treating peptic ulcers. Zantac, Tagamet HB, and Pepcid are some of the most common acid blockers. Antacids may also be suggested to provide quick pain relief, although they will not heal an ulcer.

Peptic Ulcers Prevention

Adopting a healthy lifestyle can prevent and reduce the risk of developing a peptic ulcer. These changes include:

  • Avoiding alcoholic drinks. However, those who find themselves in difficult circumstances are advised not to take more than two alcoholic drinks in a single day.
  • By maintaining a healthy lifestyle free of cigarettes and all other tobacco products. Similarly, adopting a healthy diet with whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Maintaining caution when using NSAIDs and pain meds such as aspirin. An individual can also limit the usage of these drugs and adopt other healthy pain management solutions such as CBD oil.
  • When under any medication, completely avoid alcohol.
  • Protect one’s self by regularly washing hands and eating well-cooked meals to prevent infections.
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Last Reviewed:
September 14, 2016
Last Updated:
December 22, 2017