Have you ever wondered how the digestive acids and enzymes act on the food we eat, but have no effect on our own digestive tract? Here’s why… Let’s take the stomach for example: one, there is a limit to the amount of gastric acid produced per meal, and two, there is a lining on the stomach which protects it from digesting itself. We can then understand how 1 in 10 adults develop gastric ulcers: either there’s too much acid production or there’s a breach in the integrity of the stomach protective coating, or both. Ulcers also occur in the upper part of the small intestine known as the duodenum (duodenal ulcers).
Here are the causes and risk factors for PUD:
*Excessive intake of painkillers known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s). Examples are aspirin, ibuprofen, piroxicam and diclofenac
*Excessive intake of alcohol
*Smoking, sniffing or chewing of tobacco
*Infection due to a bacteria (Helicobacter pylori) – present in up to 70% of cases.
*Severe physiological stress and hormonal changes such as in pregnancy and strenuous physical exertion
*Severe debilitating diseases such as stroke, liver failure or cancer
*Family history of PUD
*Severe depression or bipolar disorders
*Tumors of the stomach producing excessive acid
Symptoms of PUD include:
*Burning or gnawing pain in the upper abdomen
*nausea and vomiting
*vomiting of frank blood or “coffee grounds” (severe cases)
*dark tarry stools (severe cases)
*depression and social withdrawal
Diagnosis is usually straightforward when the physician interviews and examines the patient. However, with severe and recurrent symptoms, some tests will be done, including endoscopy (a thin tube with a light source, passed through the throat into the digestive tract to visualize and check for any abnormality)
Once the diagnosis is confirmed, treatment can be conservative, medical or surgical.
*Lifestyle modification: quitting alcohol and tobacco; avoiding triggers such as spices and fizzy drinks; healthy diet; regular exercise; frequent light meals; avoiding late-night meals; stress management and psychotherapy.
*Medical: combination of acid-reducing drugs, antacid preparations, and antibiotics (to eradicate H. pylori)
*Surgical: injection of substances to heal the ulcer (via endoscopy), repair of perforated ulcers, etc.