A'duodenal ulcer it is a medical condition generally caused by an infection with a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori. A 4 - 8 week treatment of acid suppression drugs will allow the ulcer to heal. In addition, a week-long course of antibiotics, supplemented with an antacid drug, will usually be able to eliminate H. pylori infection, if this has been the established cause of your discomfort.
In this way, the ulcer will be prevented from recurring. Please note that anti-inflammatory drugs used to treat conditions such as arthritis can sometimes be the cause of duodenal ulcers and that if you actually need to continue using an anti-inflammatory drug for a long time then you may need to take concomitant medications. which suppress acids.
What is a duodenal ulcer?
Going in order, we summarize this condition by stating how theduodenal ulcer is an ulcer located in the part of the small intestine just beyond the stomach (duodenum). An ulcer in the lining of the stomach is called a gastric ulcer.
Symptoms of duodenal ulcer
The pain in the upper abdomen (abdomen) just below the breastbone is the most common symptom of a duodenal ulcer. Pain is usually not continuous, and can occur mostly before meals, or when hungry. It can be relieved if you eat food, or if you take antacid tablets. The pain, however, can be so intense, when manifested, that it awakens from sleep. Other symptoms that may occur include bloating, vomiting and feeling sick. You can also feel particularly full after a meal, and sometimes taking food aggravates the pain.
Complications of duodenal ulcer
Complications of duodenal ulcer occur in some cases and can even be serious. These include:
- bleeding ulcer, sometimes - in the most serious cases - also in terms of life-threatening haemorrhage;
- drilling: the ulcer passes through (perforates) the wall of the first part of the small intestine (duodenum). The food and acid in the duodenum then escape into the abdominal cavity, usually causing severe pain, which must be treated as a medical emergency.
Read also: What is Crohn's disease, causes and symptoms
What are the treatments for a duodenal ulcer?
Normally it is possible contain the risks of a duodenal ulcer through a series of tricks and lifestyle measures, such as losing weight if you are overweight, avoiding foods that potentially trigger symptoms, such as coffee, chocolate, tomatoes, fatty foods or spicy foods. Still, it is advisable to eat smaller meals and take dinner 3 - 4 hours before going to bed, stop smoking, reduce alcohol consumption to recommended limits.
That said, one of the main remedies for the treatment of duodenal ulcer is represented by the intake of acid-suppressing drugs. The most commonly used drug is a proton pump inhibitor.
If the duodenal ulcer was caused by H. pylori, as happens in most cases, it is necessary to take specific antibiotics indicated and prescribed by the doctor, in order to achieve well-being relatively quickly. If, on the other hand, the ulcer was caused by an anti-inflammatory drug, its administration should obviously be stopped: in this way the ulcer can heal. An antacid medication will also normally be prescribed for several weeks.
Other treatments include surgical ones. However, surgery is now usually only necessary if a complication of a duodenal ulcer develops, such as severe bleeding or perforation.
What causes duodenal ulcer?
Normally there is a balance between the amount of acid that is produced and the defense barrier of the mucous membranes. However, an ulcer can develop if there is an alteration of this balance, thus allowing the acid to damage the lining of the stomach or duodenum. Causes of this imbalance can include:
- H. pylori infection: H. pylori infection is the cause in about 19 out of 20 duodenal ulcer cases. More than a quarter of people get H. pylori at some stage in their lives, so it's no wonder if it is believed that this is the most common determinant;
- anti-inflammatory drugs - including aspirin: anti-inflammatory drugs sometimes affect the mucous barrier of the duodenum and allow the acid to cause an ulcer, especially in the case of particularly prolonged use;
other causes are rare. Think of the Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, where the stomach will be forced to produce much more acid than usual. Other factors such as smoking, stress and heavy alcohol consumption can increase the risk of having a duodenal ulcer. However, these are not usually the underlying cause of duodenal ulcers.
What tests can be done?
There gastroscopy (endoscopy) is generally the test that can confirm a duodenal ulcer. In this test, a specialist doctor will be able to observe inside the stomach and the first part of the small intestine (duodenum), by passing a thin and flexible tube along the esophagus. This way it will be possible to see directly any inflammation or ulcer.
A test to detect the H. pylori bacterium will usually be performed if you have a duodenal ulcer. If this bacterium is found, it is very likely that it is the cause of the ulcer. In short, it can be detected in a stool sample, or in a breath test, or from a blood test, or from a biopsy sample taken during an endoscopy.
For more information on this condition and how to diagnose and treat it correctly, we obviously recommend that you talk to your referring doctor, carefully sharing all the symptoms and possible treatments that are useful in order to find the best well-being quickly.