Stomach/Peptic Ulcer: Causes, Symptoms, Types, Diet and Treatment

stomach ulcer

Peptic ulcer disease (PUD), is a disease that occurs when there is a sore in the wall of the stomach (gastric), part of the small intestine (duodenum), or less commonly the esophagus (food pipe).

Many persons ask the question: “what is Ulcer or what does an ulcer feel like?”. For the purpose of those who do not know. An ulcer is simply a wound (but inside the body).

A commonly known sign for peptic ulcers is waking at night with upper abdominal pain that may or may not improve with eating. Other symptoms of PUD include belching, vomiting, weight loss, or poor appetite. About a third of people with this condition show no symptoms.

Table of Contents

Types of Peptic Ulcer Disease

  1. Esophageal Ulcer: this is also known as gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD). It occurs in the lower part of the esophagus, and it is the cause of heartburn (the burning chest/upper abdominal pain that you might also feel in your neck or throat). The Esophagus is the food pipe, where food from the mouth pass through to get to the stomach. Some people describe this as “burning in the Chest or Heartburn”.
  2. Gastric Ulcer: is an ulcer (wound) in the wall stomach. People usually think of this each time they hear or have symptoms resembling that of ulcer, but it’s not the most common and usually not the case. Some people describe this as “burning in the stomach”.
  3. Duodenal Ulcer: Is an Ulcer in the duodenum. The duodenum is a part of our Small intestine (where the food we eat is absorbed into the body). This type of ulcer is 2-3 times more common than gastric ulcer.

Symptoms & Signs of Peptic Ulcer Disease

Duodenal ulcer symptoms and the symptoms & Signs of Peptic (stomach) ulcer in women and men are the same. These includes;

Peptic (stomach) ulcer
A man writhing in pain due to Stomach Ulcer. Image Credits: BusinessDailyAfrica
  1. Upper abdominal pain: that is usually burning in nature which some people call “burning in the stomach”. It looks like there is fire (hotness) on your chest. For duodenal ulcer, it is worsened by hunger which usually wakes someone up at midnight with abdominal pain. For gastric (stomach) ulcer, it is worsened by feeding, so the pain usually comes after eating. Those with this condition complain of stomach pain after eating.
  2. Abdominal fullness and feeling bloated.
  3. Black tarry foul smelling stool, due to the blood (which is now black in colour) in the faeces.
  4. Nausea and vomiting may be present as well as loss of appetite and weight loss

What Causes Peptic (Stomach) Ulcer Disease?

There are a number of reasons why Peptic ulcer develops. Some of them are;
Infection with Helicobacter pylori: This is the most common cause of peptic (stomach) ulcer. H.pylori is a bacteria. This bacteria usually lives in the mucous membranes covering the stomach and intestine as a normal flora, and often causes no problem. But at times, when there is a disturbance to the normal state of the stomach/intestine, it can cause inflammation (swelling) of the membrane. This can also happen when there is an over growth of the bacteria.

Use of pain relief Drugs: The regular use of pain relief drug that belongs to a drug class called NSAID (Non Steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), can lead to ulcer. These drugs are commonly prescribed in our pharmacies & chemist shops, especially to young ladies for the management of their menstrual pains. Example of these drugs are Aspirin, Ibuprofen, piroxicam, diclofenac, etc

Alcohol: alcohol irritates the mucosa covering of the stomach, thereby predisposing you to ulcer
Hereditary: if there has been a history of ulcer in your family, you might also be at risk of developing one.

Other risk factors are: Smoking, excessive spicy food

Complications of Peptic Ulcer Disease

If not given attention, the following complication might arise as a result of the ulcer

  1. Bleeding: this is usually slow and is responsible for the dark colour of the stool in those with this conditions. In prolonged cases, it can lead to anaemia (a condition where there is low level of red blood cell in the body).
  2. Perforation (a hole): can result from the ulcer. It can also lead to a very serious condition known as peritonitis.
  3. Gastric Outlet Obstruction: it can block the normal tract that food passes, thereby making you feel full easily/you won’t eat much.
  4. Cancer: large gastric ulcer that is ignored can undergo malignant changes

Treatment of Peptic (Stomach) Ulcer

Some readers ask questions like: “How to get rid of an Ulcer”. For the treatment of peptic Ulcer, you would need to see a doctor who would prescribe for you a couple of Antibiotics and a Proton pump inhibitor to help you reduce stomach secretions. When you take the prescribed medications as prescribed, you would be able to successfully manage the ulcer.

Prevention Tips for Peptic Ulcer Disease

  1. Avoid frequent use of pain relief medications that can cause ulcer, and always seek the attention of your doctor on the lowest possible dosage that will still produce the required effect for a relief.
  2. Reduce intake of alcohol, especially after taking drugs.
  3. Stop cigarette smoking, especially if you have a family history of peptic ulcer disease.
  4. Avoid consumption of excessive spicy food, especially if you are having a probable symptom of ulcer already (e.g abdominal pain), because spices induces increased stomach secretion.

For dietary advice on Peptic Ulcer, click here

Authors

  • Nzei Kanayo attended the College of Medicine, University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, in ituku-ozalla, Enugu state, Nigeria.

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