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Peptic Ulcers

  • What are Peptic Ulcers?

    Peptic ulcers are open sores in the lining of the stomach, the duodenum (first part of the small intestine) or in the oesophagus (foodpipe). These painful sores develop when acidic digestive fluids in the stomach corrode the lining of the organs and result in the formation of ulcers.

    Untreated peptic ulcers can lead to serious complications, such as bleeding in the stomach and perforation (tearing) of the stomach wall. Peptic ulcers are categorised according to where they occur:

    • Duodenal ulcers develop in the duodenum
    • Gastric ulcers develop in the stomach
    • Oesophagus ulcers develop in the lower part of the oesophagus
  • The most common causes of peptic ulcers include:

    • Excessive alcohol consumption
    • Infection caused by helicobacter pylori, a bacteria that weakens the protective lining of the stomach, thereby allowing acidic digestive juices to come into contact with the walls of the stomach and the duodenum
    • Long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen
    • Smoking
  • Peptic ulcers may not display symptoms. Symptoms depend on the severity of your condition and may include the following:

    • Abdominal pain or bloating
    • Black stool, which is a sign of bleeding
    • Burning sensation between meals in the upper stomach
    • Changes in appetite
    • Heartburn
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Unexplained weight loss
    • Vomiting blood
  • Treatment of peptic ulcers depends on the severity and the cause of your condition. Treatment may include:

    • Avoiding the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
    • Discontinuing smoking and alcohol consumption
    • Surgery to repair the stomach wall and stop the bleed (in severe cases)
    • Taking prescribed antibiotics to kill the bacteria if you are infected with helicobacter pylori
    • Using acid control medications to neutralise acid levels in the stomach
  • The most common complications of ulcers are bleeding and perforation of the stomach or duodenum walls.

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