Peptic ulcers are a medical term used to call a defect that occurs in the lining inside esophagus, stomach, and the upper part of small intestine. A peptic ulcer that occurs locally inside the stomach is called gastric /stomach ulcer. And one that locally affects the first part of the small intestine is called duodenum ulcer. Are there any differences from them?
Understanding peptic ulcer
There is still no clearly clue or clearly cause of this digestive problem. But experts believe that the imbalance’s effect of digestive fluids may have a significant contribution. The prognosis of ulcer is pretty good if it is completely cured. If left untreated or incompletely treated, there is a chance for it to reoccurs.
How does your digestive system work?
Foods that you eat will pass your esophagus and then go into your stomach. The stomach itself can make some acids. These acids are not essential but pretty helpful in digesting the foods you eat. Then foods will be directed to the first part of small intestine (medically called as duodenum).
After being processed and mixed in the stomach, foods will be mixed with some enzymes in the small intestines. The essential enzymes from pancreas or other parts of the body (such as from cells of the intestine’s lining) will be released to completely digest foods that you eat. In essence, these enzymes will help digest and break down the food. Then eventually the essential nutrients from the digested foods are absorbed by cells of the body.
What are the possible causes?
According to WebMD, there are 3 major possible causes for this kind of digestive problem:
- Helicobacter pylori infection. In fact, many patients who develop peptic ulcers also have H-pylori infection.
- The excessive consumption of painkillers.
- A health problem (such as gastrinomas, tumor) that triggers the over production of acid fluid.
What are the risk factors?
The following are some conditions that can contribute to cause an increased risk of developing peptic ulcers:
- Having H. pylori bacterial infection.
- Age, in other words your risk increases as you age!
- Frequently drinking alcohol too much a day.
- Having other serious diseases that affect your digestive system, such as diseases of lung, kidney, and liver.
- Taking pain killers such as naproxen, aspirin, and ibuprofen (especially too much consumption of these medications).
Moreover, some experts believe that having a family history of peptic ulcer is also another risk factor – though there are also a few studies found that it may not run in the families.
Stomach vs. duodenal ulcers
There is no significant difference for the risk factors, the theories of possible causes, and the symptoms of between duodenal and stomach ulcers. Even in making diagnosis of both conditions, doctors often use the same procedures.
As mentioned before, the major different thing for both digestive problems is the location of where the ulcer occurs. Below is a helpful image (credit to Mayo Clinic) of the location for each type:
Again, stomach ulcer is less common than duodenal ulcer (the most common type of peptic ulcer)! The symptoms of both conditions may include:
- Abdominal pain – especially in the upper section of abdomen. This is the most common symptom.
- Bloating, heartburn, nausea & vomiting.
- In severe case, there is a chance for patient to have bloody stools in a bowel movement or bloody vomiting.
Does duodenal and stomach ulcer pain come and go?
Many patients reports that their abdominal pain and some other symptoms come and go. However, you need to clearly understand that the healing of the symptom on its own doesn’t always mean that the problem is completely cured naturally. See also home remedies for digestive problems!
And one thing you need to know – if improperly treated, there is a chance for the complications to occur. Some of these complications are:
- Abnormal bleeding.
- A hole that occurs in the walls of the stomach /duodenal – medically called perforation, it is a serious or even medically emergency condition.
- There is also a chance of developing the gastric outlet obstruction which can affect the passageway from stomach to the duodenal.
It’s very important for all patients to take the treatment completely. If untreated properly, this digestive problem tends to come back. After the treatment, patient is usually asked to take several tests to make sure that the disease is completely gone and there is no risk of developing ‘cancer’.