In the human body, the stomach produces very strong gastric acid (hydrochloric acid), which helps digest or break- down food, before it enters the small intestines or duodenum (the first part of the small intestines). Within the stomach, a thick protective mucous layer protects the lining of the stomach, from the acid and digestive enzymes, from injuring the stomach wall. An ulcer occurs when an open sore or hole forms, in the lining of the stomach, intestines or esophagus (The muscular tube through which ingested food, passes from the mouth to the stomach). Depending on the location of the ulcer has an associated name. Peptic Ulcer that appears in the stomach is called Gastric ulcers, and common in people over the age sixty. When an ulcer develops in the first part of the small intestines, referred to as Duodenal Ulcer. This type of ulcer is twice as common in men than women, and between the ages 30 and 50. Esophageal Ulcer develops in the lower section of the esophagus, and often related to chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Estimated, approximately ten percent of Americans will develop an ulcer at some time in their lives.
In 2002, seven million people in the United States were diagnosed having Gastroesophagel reflux disease or acid reflux, which occurs when liquid content of the stomach, regurgitates back into the esophagus. The liquid inflames and damages the lining of the esophagus, because it contains acid and pepsin (an enzyme that begins to digest proteins in the stomach), produced in the stomach. Also, the liquid may contain bile (a yellow-green fluid made in the liver, stored in the gallbladder and passes through the bile duct into the duodenum, where it helps digest food), that is backed-up into the stomach from the duodenum. This disease causes patients to experience heartburn, chest pain, breathing difficulty, chronic cough with increased production of saliva, acid or bitter taste in the mouth, and other symptoms. People that smoke or alcoholics that have GERD, are more likely to develop cancer of the esophagus. Treatment for GERD includes medication, surgery or combination of both. Some patients manage to relieve the symptoms of GERD, by taking magnesium hydroxide (Phillips’ Milk of Magnesium), aluminum hydroxide, calcium carbonate (Tums) or anyone of these, over the counter combinations. Also, low fat diets, and avoiding obesity, are recommended for treating GERD patients.
Peptic Ulcers is a stomach infection, primarily attributed 70 – 90 percent, by the bacteria, Helicobacter pylori or H.pylori. Helicobacter Pylori is the primary cause of gastritis. The bacteria probably acquired, from contaminated food or a drinking glass. Also, contamination can be transmitted by the exchange of saliva from an infected person, through mouth-to-mouth contact such as kissing. The bacteria interfere with the protective mucous layer of the stomach. This causes damage to occur by stomach acid, and thus developing an ulcer. There are other causes attributed to peptic ulcers. Medications for treating arthritis, containing ibuprofen (Advil), Feldene, Naprosyn, Voltaren, Indocin, Aleve, Lodine, and aspirin have been known to damage, the mucous layer of the stomach causing ulcers. Smoking cigarettes or using Tabasco will delay the healing of an ulcer. Patients that have ulcers should avoid caffeine, acidic beverages, and Alcohol, which will increase the secretion of stomach acid. Stress and spicy foods should be avoided, since either one, will irritate the symptoms of an ulcer. Patients that have anxiety disorders were more likely to have peptic ulcer. Those experiencing ulcers, will have a burning pain in the upper abdomen, several hours after eating a meal or when waking from a sleep. The burning sensation sometimes radiates to the back of the body. Taking antacids and milk, will provide temporary relief. Antibiotics are prescribed for treating the bacterial infection. This treatment may include a “triple therapy,” which requires two antibiotics and one acid-suppressing medication for one to two weeks. The therapy sometimes has side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrheas, headaches and yeast infection in women. This treatment is 80 – 90 percent effective. In the worst situation, patients will experinace black stools or bloody vomiting, indicating the ulcer is bleeding, which is a very serious complication. This may cause peritonitis, a serious abdominal infection, may develop if the ulcer completely eats through the wall of the stomach or intestine. Treatment is required immediately, which prevents a life threaten situation. Some patients may require surgery, when perforation, obstruction or uncontrolled hemorrhaging develops. During the surgery, the ulcer is either removed, tying off the bleeding artery or cutting off the nerve supply to the base of the stomach.
Many types of tests and procedure are available, for the diagnosis of peptic ulcers. A blood test maybe taken, which can show evidence or presence of the bacteria, Helicobacter pylori. Urea breath tests can diagnosis the presence of H. pylori. A patient may be required, undergoing an upper-gastrointestinal GI series or barium x-ray of the stomach. The patient drinks a chalky liquid that coats the esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the intestine. After, an x-ray is taken, which examines for an ulcer that may appear as a crater on the film. An esophagogastroduodenscopy (EGD) or endoscopy is a flexible and lighted tube with a tiny camera, which is passed through the throat, into the stomach and intestines. The endoscopy allows a doctor, examining the walls of the stomach and intestines. During the procedure, a biopsy specimen can be taken, which evaluates for malignancy, very rare to find. Before the procedure is started, the patient is administered medicine to relax. Also, a diagnosis of a peptic ulcer maybe related to a patient’s medical history.