Peptic ulcers are sores that develop in the lining of the digestive system. These ulcers can cause pain and other unpleasant symptoms and can lead to dangerous complications.
Men who take over-the-counter medications, drink alcohol, smoke or live under constant stress often develop this condition.
What Are Peptic Ulcers?
Peptic ulcers are open sores that form on the inside lining of the gastrointestinal system. They may occur in the esophagus, stomach or upper part of the small intestine. Each site where the ulcer occurs gives it a different name, such as duodenal ulcer in the small intestine, esophageal ulcer in the esophagus or gastric ulcer in the stomach.
Symptoms of Peptic Ulcers
These ulcers can cause internal distress anywhere from the breastbone to the navel, causing pain, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, blood in vomit or blood in stools. The individual may experience a chronic burning sensation in the stomach or a feeling of constant hunger. The feeling can radiate to the sides and back. Pain may be worse at night or may be worse when your stomach is empty. Antacids may relieve symptoms temporarily. Eating some foods may offer temporary relief from pain. Symptoms may also come and go.
What Causes Peptic Ulcers?
Peptic ulcers form when stomach acid eats away at the lining of the stomach and related organs. It was once thought that stress caused the wearing away of the mucus layer of the digestive system, but now doctors have learned that the cause is usually bacterial infection.
The bacterium called Helicobacter pylori is at fault in the majority of peptic ulcers. The overuse of pain relievers can also cause erosion of the lining, as well as a few other medications, such as medications used for osteoporosis. Drinking, smoking and uncontrolled stress can contribute to peptic ulcer problems. The occurrence of peptic ulcers is slightly higher in men than in women. The tendency to develop peptic ulcers often runs in families.
Diagnosing Peptic Ulcers
The physician who suspects a peptic ulcer generally orders a series of gastrointestinal tests. An x-ray of the stomach and duodenum is done. Endoscopy, in which a tiny camera is inserted into the stomach through a flexible tube, can help the physician to examine the lining of the stomach directly. A biopsy, or removal of a small amount of tissue, may also be done for examination under the microscope. Blood and tissue tests can help the physician determine the type of bacteria that is at fault.
Treatment For Peptic Ulcers
Antibiotics that work on the gastrointestinal system are used to kill the bacteria that cause peptic ulcers. Proton pump inhibitors are medication used to decrease the amount of stomach acid produced. Histamine receptor blockers perform this same function. In addition, the use of antacids may be advised. A healthy diet that contains fresh fruits and vegetables helps to reduce the acid produced by the stomach. The physician may also advise you to avoid NSAID medications like aspirin, Tylenol and ibuprofen that can damage the stomach lining. Surgery may be necessary for severe ulcer conditions that perforate the stomach wall.
Prognosis For Peptic Ulcers in Men
Treating peptic ulcers with antacids and H2 antagonists will generally heal peptic ulcers in 4 to 8 weeks. Antibiotics to kill the H. pylori bacteria are also given, often in double and triple combination treatments with other medications. Lifestyle changes are often necessarily to prevent the reoccurrence of peptic ulcers. These changes can often be difficult for men to sustain. A good support system and careful attention to good health habits offer a good outcome for patients.
Though a peptic ulcer can be a painful condition, it is easily treated with good medical care and attention to proper diet. Men who suspect they may have peptic ulcers should follow their physician’s advice for relief from this troublesome disorder.