Peptic ulcer is a condition which occurs due to breach in the protective inner lining of the stomach, duodenum, e.t.c. digestive organs.
It is most common in the duodenum (part of small bowel adjoining the stomach) and stomach but can occur in the food pipe also.
Ulceration occurs when the aggressive factors damaging the protective mucosa overwhelm its protective power. These damaging factors are the ones which lead to increased secretion of gastric acid or inflammation of gastric mucosa.
Majority of cases of duodenal ulcer and some of gastric ulcer occur due to infection by H. pylori (Heliobacter pylori). Long standing chronic gastritis invariably leads to peptic ulcer formation.
Drugs like corticosteroids and pain killers used frequently, damage the gastric mucosa leading to gastritis and peptic ulcer formation.
Similarly use of very spicy and hot food, alcohol, smoking, excess use of tea, coffee and soft drinks are risk factors for peptic ulcer formation.
Some individuals have a genetic susceptibility to increased secretion of gastric acid and consequently develop peptic ulcer later in life.
Tumours of the stomach producing increased gastric acid also lead to peptic ulcer. Hiatus hernia, an uncommon condition causes ulcers in the food pipe.
Mental stress is a potent cause for causing increased secretion of gastric acid and peptic ulcer formation. Eating at long intervals and taking heavy meals is also a risk factor to produce gastric ulcer.
In peptic ulcer, one experiences burning pain mainly in the upper part of stomach. This pain may radiate to the chest mimicking a heart attack.
If ulcer is located in the duodenum, pain is often nocturnal and relieved by food. Pain of gastric ulcer may not be related to food or it may be aggravated after meals. Pain is accompanied by nausea and bilious vomiting.
Loss of appetite and weight occur with long standing ulcer.
Apart from the suffering it causes, a person having peptic ulcer is prone to develop complications due to it. Bleeding can occur early. It is frightening for a person and his family when he vomits blood.
There can be obstruction or perforation in the ulcer causing severe pain which needs urgent surgical intervention.
Over a period of time peptic ulcers tend to become malignant which becomes a point for no return for the individual.
To prevent long term sickness it is wise to prevent development of peptic ulcer. “Hurry, worry and curry” are said to be risk factors leading to development of peptic ulcer and therefore should be avoided. Excess use of soft beverages, coffee and tea should be avoided.
If possible alcohol should be given up totally. Instead of taking one or 2 heavy meals one should try taking small frequent meals as this helps in neutralizing the excess acid produced in the stomach and also in digestion.
Food containing more of green vegetables, fruits and whole grains aids in preventing peptic ulcer. Research studies have shown the beneficial effect of honey in preventing and healing peptic ulcers.
Therefore if one takes honey in place of sugar as a sweetener, it is healthier.
Peptic ulcer is suspected when someone has the suggestive features and diagnosis is confirmed by upper gastrointestinal endoscopy ( a tube is put through in the stomach and entire upper alimentary tract is visualized.)
Initial treatment of peptic ulcer is by diet restriction, modification and life style changes. Drug treatment of infection by H. pylori completely heals the ulcer Drugs like cimetidine, omeprazole, e.t.c. are used to reduce the gastric acid production and provide relief in the troublesome pain.
But it should be remembered that taken over a time these drugs also tend to produce adverse effects notably absence of gastric acid production which makes a person more prone to infections and malignancy.
Surgery is the last option for treatment when the symptoms become intractable or some complication develops.
But it leads to long term complications which are more troublesome than original disease notably frequent diarrhoea and malnutrition.
A disciplined life with a relaxed mind is a state where one has minimum chances of developing a peptic ulcer.
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