Stomach: Peptic Ulcer Disease
A peptic ulcer is a defect in the lining of the stomach or the adjacent small intestine. This can result in upper abdominal pain, sometimes occurring on an empty stomach, indigestion, or it can be silent. In the case of a silent ulcer, it might be detected only after complications occur. The complications include bleeding, perforation and obstruction.
Under normal circumstances, acid is produced in the stomach to aid digestion of food. The stomach also has several mechanisms to protect its lining against the highly corrosive acid. When there is an imbalance between acid production and the protective mechanisms, ulceration can occur.
The following are most commonly identified as contributors to the imbalance:
- Helicobacter pylori infection.
- Drugs like aspirin and certain pain medication.
- Severe physiologic stress.
Assessment for peptic ulcer disease may include performing a gastroscopy to visualise the lining of the stomach and duodenum. If an ulcer is present, a biopsy of the ulcer can be taken to check for the presence of cancer cells. A special test can also be performed on a small biopsy of the stomach lining to check for presence of Helicabacter pylori infection.
A urea breath test can also be done to accurately detect Helicobacter pylori infection.
Medications may be prescribed for 2 purposes:
- to reduce acid secretion
- to eradicate the Helicobacter pylori infection
If you experience any of following symptoms, please consult your doctor.
- Black, tarry stools
- Recent unexplained weight loss
- Symptoms of anemia like lethargy, shortness of breath, palpitations, chest pain or dizziness
- Burning pain in your upper abdomen