Peptic ulcer occurs when there is an open sore in the gastro-intestinal tract. That is, when there is an open sore in the patient’s stomach and/or upper part of the small intestine.
Peptic ulcer can be gastric or duodenal:
Gastric ulcer occurs when the open sore is on the inside of the stomach.
Duodenal ulcer occurs on the inside of the upper part of the small intestine.
Symptoms of Peptic ulcer
There are several symptoms of peptic ulcer. The most common among them are:
- Heart burn
- Burning stomach pain
- Frequent stool
Burning stomach pain remains the most common among the symptoms. Burning stomach pain results from imbalance in the stomach pH homeostasis. When the stomach pH value becomes acidic, the mucosa lining decreases and thereby exposes the stomach and intestinal walls to acid burn.
The burning stomach pain can be managed by eating foods that are rather alkaline or by taking medications that buffers the stomach or intestinal acidic pH value.
Causes of peptic ulcer
The digestive tract is coated with mucosa layer that normally protects the wall from acid burn. When the pH value in the digestive tract shifts from alkaline to acidic value, the mucosa layer is damaged, thereby compromising its ability to secrete bicarbonate, a buffer solution. With the mucosa layer being damaged, the stomach wall is exposed to acid burn.
The common causes of peptic ulcer include
- Helicobacter pyroli (H.pylori) bacteria. Helicobacter pylori bacteria live in the gastro-intestinal wall mucosa. Often, H.pylori do not cause any harm to the host stomach cell wall, however, it can cause inflammation. It also impairs the secretion of bicarbonate, thereby promoting gastric acidity.
- H.pylori infection can be transmitted from person to person in close contact and through food and water.
- Regular use of pain relievers. Pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, corticosteroids, and NSAIDs can irritate the lining of the stomach and small intestine.
- Regular intake of acidified beverages. Regular intakes of certain beverages have been reported among some patients to induce irritation on the lining of the stomach and small intestine. This report is particularly popular among Nigerian population of patients.
- Coffee and spicy foods. Whereas it is not certain that coffee and spicy foods can cause peptic ulcer, several patients in Nigeria report of irritation on the stomach and intestine each time they took coffee or spicy foods. Some of them experience immediate heart burn.
Management and treatment
Peptic ulcer can be managed by taking antacids. However, antacids only offer temporary relief; they don’t cure peptic ulcer. Treatment of peptic ulcer can be done by taking the following medications:
Proton pump inhibitor (PPI). PPI drugs reduce acid level in the stomach and intestinal lining, thereby allowing the open sores to heal.
Histamine receptor blockers also function like proton pump inhibitors.
Antibiotics which kill H.pylori bacteria.