Duodenal ulcers are inflammations found in the inner line of the stomach and the duodenum, mostly caused by a bacterium called H. pylori.
Causes of a duodenal ulcer
The stomach produces digestive acids which aid in the breakdown of food whilst helping kill bacteria. These digestive acids are slightly corrosive in nature. While the inside lining of the stomach and the duodenum is enveloped by a mucus covering, there is often a balance between the amount of acid the body makes and the mucus production. During conditions of imbalance, the acid damages the lining of the stomach or the duodenum causing the formation of ulcers.
Certain other factors which may cultivate the formation of a duodenal ulcer apart from the excessive production of digestive acids by the body itself are:
An infection caused by Helicobacter pylori: While in many people it causes no problems at all, in others, the bacterium causes inflammations in the lining of the stomach and the duodenum causing the mucus envelop to get damaged, thus leaving the surface area open for the digestive acids to react leading to ulcers.
Consumption of anti-inflammatory drugs: Anti-inflammatory drugs, sometimes called non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) affect the mucus envelop allowing the acids to cause an ulcer.
Several other factors such as smoking, stress and consumption of excessive alcohol may also increase the risk of cultivating a duodenal ulcer.
Symptoms of a duodenal ulcer
A duodenal ulcer is usually characterized by an excruciating pain in the upper abdomen just below the sternum. The pain usually increases with the intake of each meal and may subside with the consumption of antacids. Other symptoms include bloating and retching.
Tests to detect a duodenal ulcer
A duodenal ulcer is usually detected using the popular method of Endoscopy. However, the patient also undergoes tests to detect a possible presence of the H. pylori bacterium.
Treatments for a duodenal ulcer
While these ulcers are usually curable, certain forms such as a bleeding ulcer or a perforated ulcer (the ulcer perforates the wall of the duodenum) may cause complications demanding a risk for surgery.
Acid suppressing medication
Patients suffering with a duodenal ulcer are usually prescribed a course of acid-suppressing medication spreading over four to eight weeks. In cases of an infection caused by H. pylori, a week long course of two antibiotics and an acid suppressing drug are usually prescribed.
Acid-suppressing drugs greatly reduce the amount of acid that the stomach secretes. The most commonly prescribed drug is a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) – a class primarily comprising of esomeprazole, lansoprazole, omeprazole, pantoprazole and rabeprazole. Sometimes, the H2 blockers carrying cimetidine, famotidine, nizatidine and ranitidine are also prescribed.
In the past, duodenal ulcers commonly needed surgery for effective removal. Over the years, with the progress of science and medication, the modern acid-suppressing drugs have been made available to the common man. In today’s times, surgery is needed only in cases of emergency where patients are found suffering from intolerable pain due to a bleeding ulcer or perforation.
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