Peptic Ulcer Disease
Peptic Ulcer Disease is the medical term for what is commonly known as a stomach ulcer. There are several types of peptic ulcers, but most have the same general stomach ulcer symptoms.
What is Peptic Ulcer Disease?
As mentioned, peptic ulcer diseases is simply the label given to someone who has a peptic ulcer. An ulcer refers to an erosion of the tissue lining the gastrointestinal tract.
There are actually several types of peptic ulcers which are named by the location of which they occur: duodenal ulcers, gastric ulcers, and esophageal ulcers.
Duodenal Ulcers are actually the most common type of peptic ulcer and do not even occur even in the stomach but rather the duodenum, which is the first portion of the small intestine.
Unbeknownst to many, the duodenum is actually is where most of the chemical digestion of food takes place.
The body can only digest a little bit of food at once in the duodenum, so the stomach acts like a “holding tank” for food and slowly releases it into the duodenum for chemical digestion.
The duodenum not only receives some hydrochloric acid from the stomach but also contains powerful digestive enzymes trypsin and chymotrypsin, which help digest protein. For this reason, the duodenum is susceptible to ulcer formation, particularly when the bacterium H pylori is present to weaken the duodenal lining.
Ulcers can also occur in the stomach which are known as gastric ulcers. These ulcers are more likely to be cancerous.
Esophageal ulcers are less common than the other types of ulcers and occur in the esophagus.
What Are the Effects of Peptic Ulcer Disease?
Ulcers are a problem because they can both be painful and harmful to our health.
Ulcers occur when the protective lining of the gastrointestinal tract becomes compromised and stomach acid and pepsin (a digestive enzyme) begin to eat away healthy tissues.
There are two dangerous things associated with peptic ulcer disease: perforation and stomach cancer:
- Perforation occurs when an ulcer completely pierces the stomach or small intestine. This can be a life-threatening condition as it results in internal bleeding. This frequently results in emergency surgery. Blood in the stool or vomit is one of the major symptoms of a perforated peptic ulcer.
- Stomach cancer causes a small percentage of peptic ulcers. A biopsy is generally performed if this is suspected to confirm the presence of stomach cancer.
What Causes Peptic Ulcer Disease?
Peptic ulcer disease is primarily caused by the H pylori bacterium. H pylori symptoms are usually non-existent and do not present themselves until ulceration has occurred.
To confirm H pylori infection, several tests can be done. The most accurate test is a biopsy, but it is also very invasive. As a result, frequently a breath test, blood test, or stool test is used instead.
Additionally, H pylori infection significantly increases the risk of stomach cancer. Stomach cancer is highly associated with H pylori infections.
Peptic ulcer disease can also be caused by regular use of certain medications, particularly NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen as well as by aspirin.
Even if you follow the dosage recommendations on the label, regularly use of these over-the-counter medications can wreck havoc on your gastrointestinal tract.