Peptic Ulcer Disease: Simple Facts and Misconceptions

Peptic Ulcer Disease is a medical condition wherein an individual develops ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract. Peptic Ulcers usually develop in the duodenum or the first part of the small intestine. This disease is characterized by ulcers or open wounds which develop in the gastrointestinal tract. The ulcer is equal to 0.5cm or greater in diameter. Pain in Peptic Ulcers is caused when acid comes in contact with the wound or ulcer.

Every year more and more Americans suffer from a medical condition called Peptic Ulcer Disease or PUD. It is estimated that one out of ten Americans or 25 million out of the total population are affected by the disease at one point in their life. Peptic Ulcers are often ignored or brushed aside as simple stomach pains. They are often neglected until they develop life threatening complications. Peptic Ulcers are easy to manage and require no special medical attention when detected early.

helicobacter pylori
Helicobacter pylori infection is one of the main causes of Peptic Ulcer Disease

Helicobacter pylori infection is the major cause of Peptic Ulcer Disease. H. pylori infection accounts for 60% of all Peptic Ulcer development. Chronic infection causes increased secretion of gastric acids which breaks down tissue linings and mucosa. If left untreated acid secretions produce ulcers or wounds in tissues. Pain associated with Peptic Ulcer disease is attributed to damaged tissues coming in contact with acids.

Regular intake of medicines such as aspirin or NSAID’s (Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) is also a major cause of Peptic Ulcers. NSAIDS are drugs which are taken for pain-relief. Patients suffering from ulcer pain take in these drugs to relieve pain but unknowingly aggravate the disease. People suffering from peptic ulcers should first consult their doctors before taking any medications specially those for pain relief.

Peptic Ulcer Disease Signs and symptoms

  • Dull, Gnawing pain and a burning sensation in mid-epigastria or in the back
  • Pain that is usually relieved by taking in food or antacids. Pain usually returns when antacids wear off or stomach is empty
  • Heartburn (pyrosis) and burning sensations in the esophagus and stomach.
  • Nausea and vomiting are also tell-tale signs of Peptic Ulcers. Acid build-up in the esophagus and stomach may cause a bloated feeling. Pain is relieved with ejection of gastric contents.
  • Black tarry stools (melena) or dark colored stools which indicate dried blood in ones feces may indicate peptic ulcer disease. Bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract causes this condition.
  • Presence of bright blood (Hematochezia) in the stools. Lower gastrointestinal bleeding is one of the causes for the presence of blood in stools.

Peptic Ulcer Disease if left untreated may give rise to life-threatening conditions. Major complications of Peptic Ulcer Disease are gastrointestinal bleeding, pyloric stenosis, perforation, gastric outlet obstruction and penetration.

Common Misconceptions about Peptic Ulcers:

  • Contrary to popular belief peptic ulcers usually develop in the duodenum and not the stomach
  • Food rich in acids are contributory factors in disease development but is not a major factor
  • Stress certainly increases acid content in the stomach but only increases incidence of pain
  • Taking in milk to relieve pain might only increase acid content in the stomach. Lactic acid is the by produced by milk and therefore increases acid levels in the stomach.
  • Some NSAID’s such as aspirin are not advised for people suffering from Peptic Ulcer Disease.

Peptic ulcers are often dismissed as simple inconveniences in day to day life. Major diseases are brought about by complications of everyday illnesses. Prevention and education is always the best way of treating or avoiding diseases. Illnesses should always be consulted with a doctor or healthcare provider. Early diagnosis of the disease gives the best chance of recovering from it. Self-medication or treatment is discouraged as medicines often give more harm than benefits. Only licensed physicians may prescribe medications. The cost of today’s healthcare is proving to be more and more expensive. If you feel that you maybe suffering from Peptic Ulcer it is always best to visit your physician or local clinic.

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Ronald Uy, RN

© 2009 Hemorrhoid Information Center

Sources:

Peptic Ulcers. Retrieved August 22, 2009 from eMedicineHealth. http://www.emedicinehealth.com

Peptic Ulcer. Retrieved August 21, 2009 from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org

Peptic Ulcer Disease. Retrieved August 22, 2009 from MSN Health and Fitness: http://health.msn.com

Peptic Ulcer. Retrieved August 22, 2009 from Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/

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