The festive period has passed but before and during the period, a lot of people had so much to eat and wine with much that the aftermath of this may end up causing more harm to their body than good.
While feasting, some folks may not have had the luxury of eating and drinking to their heart desire.
Some people may complain of stomach pain or vomiting after eating a little food. The primary reasons for this could have been Peptic Ulcer Disease (PUD).
What are peptic ulcers?
Peptic ulcers are sores that develop in the lining of the stomach, lower esophagus, or small intestine. They are usually formed as a result of inflammation caused by the bacteria H. pylori, as well as from erosion from stomach acids. Peptic ulcers are a fairly common health problem.
There are three types of peptic ulcers. These are:
- Gastric ulcers: Ulcers that develop inside the stomach.
- Esophageal ulcers: Ulcers that develop inside the esophagus.
iii. Duodenal ulcers: Ulcers that develop in the upper section of the small intestines, called the duodenum.
Causes Of Peptic Ulcers
Different factors can cause the lining of the stomach, the esophagus, and the small intestine to break down. These include:
- Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a type of bacteria that can cause a stomach infection and inflammation.
- Frequent use of aspirin (Bayer), ibuprofen (Advil), and other anti-inflammatory drugs (risk associated with this behaviour increases in women and people over the age of 60).
- Drinking too much alcohol.
- Radiation therapy.
- Stomach cancer.
Symptoms Of Peptic Ulcers
The most common symptom of a peptic ulcer is burning abdominal pain that extends from the navel to the chest, which can range from mild to severe. In some cases, the pain may wake you up at night. Small peptic ulcers may not produce any symptoms in the early phases.
Other common signs of a peptic ulcer include:
- Changes in appetite
iii. Bloody or dark stools.
- Unexplained weight loss.
vii. Chest pain.
Diagnosis (Tests and exams for peptic ulcers)
Two types of tests are available to diagnose a peptic ulcer. They are called upper endoscopy and upper gastrointestinal (GI) series.
Upper endoscopy: In this procedure, the doctor inserts a long tube with a camera down the throat and into the stomach and small intestine to examine the area for ulcers. This instrument also allows the doctor to remove tissue samples for examination.
Not all cases require an upper endoscopy. However, this procedure is recommended for people with a higher risk of stomach cancer. This includes people over the age of 45, as well as people who experience: anemia, weight loss, gastrointestinal bleeding and difficulty while swallowing.
Upper GI: If you don’t have difficulty swallowing and have a low risk of stomach cancer, the doctor may recommend an upper GI test instead. For this procedure, you’ll drink a thick liquid called barium (barium swallow). Then a technician will take an X-ray of the stomach, esophagus, and small intestine. The liquid will make it possible for your doctor to view and treat the ulcer.
Because H. pylori is one of the causes of peptic ulcers, the doctor will also run a test to check for this infection in your stomach.
Treatment (How to treat a peptic ulcer)
Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the ulcer. If tests show that there is a H. pylori infection, the doctor will prescribe a combination of medication. The patient will have to take the medications for up to two weeks. The medications include antibiotics to help kill infections and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) to help reduce stomach acid.
The patient may experience minor side effects like diarrhoea or an upset stomach from antibiotic regimens. If these side effects cause significant discomfort or don’t get better over time, the patient is advised to talk to their doctor.
If the doctor determines that there is absence of a H. pylori infection, they may recommend a prescription or over-the-counter PPI (such as Prilosec or Prevacid) for up to eight weeks to reduce stomach acid and help your ulcer heal.
Acid blockers like ranitidine (Zantac) or famotidine (Pepcid) can also reduce stomach acid and ulcer pain. These medications are available as a prescription and also over the counter in lower doses.
The doctor may also prescribe sucralfate (Carafate) which will coat the stomach and reduce symptoms of peptic ulcers.
Complications of a peptic ulcer
Untreated ulcers can become worse over time. They can lead to other more serious health complications such as:
Perforation: A hole develops in the lining of the stomach or small intestine and causes an infection. A sign of a perforated ulcer is sudden, severe abdominal pain.
Internal bleeding: Bleeding ulcers can result in significant blood loss and thus require hospitalization. Signs of a bleeding ulcer include lightheadedness, dizziness, and black stools.
Scar tissue: This is thick tissue that develops after an injury. This tissue makes it difficult for food to pass through your digestive tract. Signs of scar tissue include vomiting and weight loss.
All three complications are serious and may require surgery. Patients are advised to seek urgent medical attention if they experience the following symptoms: sudden, sharp abdominal pain, fainting, excessive sweating, or confusion, as these may be signs of shock, blood in vomit or stool, abdomen that is hard to the touch, abdominal pain that worsens with movement but improves with lying completely still.
How to prevent peptic ulcers
Certain lifestyle choices and habits can reduce your risk of developing peptic ulcers. These include:
- not drinking more than two alcoholic beverages a day.
- not mixing alcohol with medication.
iii. washing your hands frequently to avoid infections.
- limiting your use of ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen (Aleve).
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by quitting smoking cigarettes and other tobacco
use and eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will help you prevent developing a peptic ulcer.