Peptic ulcer disease (PUD) occurs when there is a break in the stomach lining, lower esophagus, or first part of the small intestine. An ulcer that occurs in the stomach is called a gastric ulcer, while one in the first part of the intestines is a duodenal ulcer. The commonest causes of PUD are the bacteria Helicobacter pylori and the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Other contributing factors include tobacco smoking, Behcet’s disease, stress due to serious illness, Crohn’s disease, liver cirrhosis, and Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. Approximately 33 percent of older people have no symptoms. PUD might lead to complications, such as bleeding, blockage in the stomach, and perforation. Bleeding usually occurs in about 15 percent of patients.
The diagnosis of PUD can be confirmed with an endoscopy or a barium swallow. A Helicobacter pylori infection can be confirmed by testing the blood for antibodies, testing the stool for the bacteria, a urea breath test, or a biopsy of the stomach. The treatment and management of the disease involve quitting smoking, stopping the use of NSAIDs, avoiding alcohol, and taking medications (such as a protein pump inhibitor or an H2 blocker) to lower the production of stomach acid. Bleeding ulcers can be treated with an endoscopy.
Approximately 4 percent of the global population have peptic ulcers. In 2015, peptic ulcers resulted in 267,500 deaths and about 87.4 million individuals had new ulcers. Approximately 10 percent of people develop an ulcer at some point in life.
Peptic Ulcer Symptom #1: Upper Abdominal Pain
One of the commonest symptoms of a gastric or duodenal ulcer is pain in the upper abdomen that occurs in the middle of the night or pain that improves or worsens after eating. The pain is often described as a dull ache or burning sensation. Most patients find relief after taking antacids orally.