Peptic ulcers refer to the sores present in the lining of stomach, esophagus, and small intestine. In the small intestine, the sores are often present in the upper part, called the duodenum. Peptic ulcers in the stomach are known as gastric ulcers, while those present in the esophagus are known as esophageal ulcers. Ulcers present in the duodenum are known as duodenal ulcers. Peptic ulcers are a very common condition that affects millions of people in the country.
Some of the common causes of peptic ulcers include:
- Helicobacter pylori infection – This bacterium is commonly found in the mucus layer of stomach and intestines. Under certain conditions, these bacteria results in the inflammation of the stomach lining leading to an ulcer.
- Certain medications called non-steroidal inflammatory drugs, like aspirin, naproxen, or ibuprofen, may result in ulcers. This is more commonly noticed in elderly people who regularly take these medications for various conditions. Other medications that may cause ulcers include bisphosphonates.
- Excess acid in the stomach and small intestine due to gastrinomas and tumors of acid-producing gland cells also cause sores.
Some of the major risk factors for the condition include:
- Alcohol abuse
In some cases, ulcers may not present any symptoms as such.
Symptoms, when present, include:
- Pain in the stomach between meals
- Presence of blood in the stool
- Change in the color of the stool
Pain in the abdomen is the most common symptom of this condition. This pain may be felt anywhere between the breastbone and navel and it worsens when there is no food in the stomach. In some cases, eating certain kinds of food may relieve pain. If the condition progresses without any treatment, some other symptoms, like unexplained weight loss and lack of appetite, may be noted.
Peptic ulcers may lead to some complications like:
- Internal bleeding – Blood loss may be slow or very severe. Continuous loss of blood from the intestine may lead to anemia while severe loss may need blood transfusion.
- Infection – Presence of sores and holes in the lining of the stomach increases the chances of infections in the abdominal cavity. These infections are referred to as peritonitis.
- Scar tissue – In some cases, sores in the cavity may result in the formation of scar tissue. These scar tissues may hinder the passage of food through the cavity leading to vomiting and weight loss.