Robert Burakoff, MD, MPH, is board-certified in gastroentrology. He is the vice chair for ambulatory services for the department of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York.
Peptic ulcer disease is a common digestive disorder in which acid and pepsin (an important digestive enzyme) cause the lining of the stomach, or the first part of the small intestine, known as the duodenum, to erode. This leads to sores known as peptic ulcers. A peptic ulcer that's located in the stomach is called a gastric ulcer. If a sore is in the duodenum, it is called a duodenal ulcer.Peptic ulcer disease can cause significant upper abdominal pain, but symptoms may vary somewhat between the two types of peptic ulcers and may need to be treated differently.The most common causes are now known to be infection by the Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacterium and long-term use of certain pain relievers. Treatments include antibiotics and sometimes surgery.
While there have been some studies that have suggested that people with blood types A or O may be predisposed to developing peptic ulcer disease, there is no definitive evidence that confirms this correlation.
The two most common causes of peptic ulcer disease are infection with a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori) and long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Lifestyle factors such as smoking may also contribute. While it was once thought that stress and spicy foods could cause peptic ulcers, this has been found to be untrue.
Peptic ulcers can become serious and even life-threatening if ulcers aren't treated or treatment isn't effective. The most common complications include bleeding, perforation of the stomach or duodenal walls, and obstruction of the digestive tract.
Treatments for peptic ulcers include antibiotics to clear H. pylori (the bacterium largely responsible for the disease), prescription and over-the-counter medicines to manage symptoms, and lifestyle modifications, such as avoiding alcohol to help ulcers heal. In rare cases, surgery may be necessary.
A procedure used to visualize internal organs. An endoscope, a flexible tube with a lighted camera attached, is inserted down through the mouth, up through the rectum, or through a small incision made in the skin, depending on which part of the body is being examined. A colonoscopy, used to visualize the colon, is one type of endoscopy.
A bacteria believed to be a principal cause of peptic ulcers and chronic gastritis, conditions which were formerly believed to be caused by stress and poor diet.
Symptoms of H. pylori infection may include stomach pain, bloating, nausea, and tarry stools. Blood, stool, and breath tests can be used to confirm the infection and may be followed by an endoscopic exam to look directly inside the stomach.
A potential complication of peptic ulcer disease in which an ulcer becomes inflamed, blocking the passageway of digested food and preventing the small intestine from functioning normally. An obstruction is a medical emergency.
A potential complication of peptic ulcer disease in which an ulcer wears away at the lining of the stomach or small intestine, causing a perforation (hole), which can leak gastrointestinal fluid into the body. A perforation requires urgent medical treatment, which often involves surgery.
An open sore that can occur on the skin, in the mouth, and in the lining of the stomach and intestines. In peptic ulcer disease, acid and the digestive enzyme pepsin cause the lining of the stomach or the first part of the small intestine, known as the duodenum, to erode, resulting in peptic ulcers; a peptic ulcer located in the stomach is called a gastric ulcer. If a sore is in the duodenum, it is called a duodenal ulcer.
An X-ray examination of the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract, including the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum (first part of the small intestine). Prior to undergoing the X-rays, you are asked to drink a liquid suspension of barium so that the X-rays are clear. An upper GI series is used to diagnose peptic ulcer disease.
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