Peptic Ulcer Disease

By Medically reviewed by Panel Perubatan Hello Doktor

In this article:

  • Knowing the basics
  • Identifying the symptoms
  • Determining the causes
  • Understanding the treatment
  • Treating the condition through lifestyle changes & home remedies

Knowing the basics

What is peptic ulcer disease?

Peptic ulcer disease is an open sore on the lining of the stomach or duodenum (the upper portion of the small intestine). These lesions occur when the lining of the stomach and duodenum is punctured and the underlying tissue is exposed. Ulcers in the stomach are 4 times more common than in the duodenum.

Who is at risk of peptic ulcer disease?

Peptic ulcer is a very common disease and may occur at any age, but it’s usually found among older people. You can limit the possibility of acquiring the disease by reducing its risk factors. Please consult a doctor for more information.

Identifying the symptoms

What are the signs and symptoms of peptic ulcer disease?

The most common symptom of peptic ulcers is a dull or burning pain, which is usually experienced in the upper middle part of the abdomen, above the belly button (navel) and below the breastbone. Also, pain caused by peptic ulcers may:

  • Occur when the stomach is empty, such as between meals or at night
  • Be relieved by eating certain foods or if you take acid-reducing medication
  • Last from several minutes to a couple of hours
  • Recur every few days, weeks or months

There are less common symptoms, which include:

  • Flatulence
  • Burping
  • Feeling of discomfort in the stomach
  • Appetite changes
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

There may be other symptoms which could show when you have peptic ulcers. Please consult a doctor if you experience any abnormalities. 

When do you need to see a doctor?

Peptic ulcer disease can get worse if left untreated. Seek medical help if you experience any of the symptoms listed above, or severe symptoms as follows:

  • Feeling faint
  • Trouble breathing
  • Vomiting / Vomiting blood, which may appear red or black
  • Dark blood in stool, or stool that is black or tarry
  • Sudden and persistent pain

Determining the causes

What causes peptic ulcer disease?

Common causes of peptic ulcers are:

  • Helicobacter pylori infection
  • Regular use of aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen
  • Zollinger-Ellison syndrome (which causes overproduction of gastric acid)
  • Tumors in the stomach, duodenum or spleen

Reducing the risk factors

What factors increase the risk of peptic ulcer disease?

You are at risk of developing peptic ulcers if you:

  • Smoke: Smoking may increase the risk of peptic ulcers in people with H. pylori infection.
  • Consume alcohol: Alcohol can irritate and erode the lining of the stomach and increase stomach acid.

You may still be at risk of peptic ulcers even though you do not experience any symptoms. The above information only serves as a reference. You should consult a doctor for more details.

Understanding the treatment

The information provided herein is not a substitute for any medical advice. Therefore, ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is peptic ulcer disease treated?

The treatment goal is to heal the ulcers, thereby eliminating the symptoms of recurrence and avoiding complications. After treatment, a person should see improvement within 2 weeks. Recurrence may occur if the risk factors are not reduced.

The treatment method would depend on the cause of the ulcers.

The doctor may prescribe medications to reduce stomach acid, such as antacids, histamine H2-receptor antagonists (ranitidine, famotidine) or proton pump inhibitors (omeprazole). Sucralfate is another type of medicine that can form a protective film on an ulcer to help it heal. Antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors or bismuth can be used to treat H. pylori infections.

If the cause of your peptic ulcers is due to the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), your doctor may recommend:

  • To stop using them
  • Reducing the dose
  • Using proton pump inhibitors or histamine receptor antagonists instead
  • Switching to other medications that do not cause peptic ulcers

If the medications do not work, or serious complications occur, you may need to undergo surgery. However, at present, surgical intervention is not a popular option in peptic ulcers treatment.

How is peptic ulcer disease diagnosed?

To diagnose peptic ulcers, the doctor would ask for your medical history and perform a physical exam. Other certain tests may include:

  • Blood test: to check for anemia, since severe peptic ulcers could cause heavy blood loss
  • Stool analysis: to check for blood in the stool
  • Endoscopic procedure (EGD), in which a flexible tube with a light and camera at its end, is inserted from the mouth and goes all the way to the stomach to examine the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and the upper portion of small intestine
  • Barium enema: The doctor will take an x-ray after you have been given a contrast material called barium sulfate

Treating the condition through lifestyle changes & home remedies

Which living habits help to slow down the progression of peptic ulcer disease?

Here’s what you need to keep in mind if you experience peptic ulcers:

  • Avoid consumables that increase the risk of peptic ulcers such as aspirin, NSAIDs, smoking, and alcohol.
  • Seek medical help if you experience diarrhea, vomiting blood or coffee-colored mucus, bloody or blackish stools, or if the treatment does not alleviate the pain and you still feel sick.
  • Create a healthy diet with plenty of vegetables and whole grains, and pay attention to stress management to avoid aggravating any of the symptoms.

If you are concerned about any red flags with your health, please consult a doctor for advice on the best treatment.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.