ABOUT Peptic Ulcer Disease - Causes and Treatment
What Is Peptic Ulcer Disease?
It's the medical term for an ulcer. An ulcer is a break in the membrane of your stomach or small intestine. The walls of your digestive tract are typically made up of layers, with mucus that lines them acting as a protective barrier.
The lining becomes inflamed and starts to break down, allowing acid to escape into the tissue below. This can cause pain and discomfort, indigestion, ulcers, bleeding, and infection in the stomach or intestine.
Peptic Ulcer Disease affects over 70% of Americans at some point in their lives; it's also one of America's most common causes for hospitalization (which means it's an ability-impairing condition).
The statistics are staggering; nearly 1% of the population gets an ulcer every year, and over 200 million Americans have one or more ulcers.
So What Causes Peptic Ulcer Disease?
The exact cause of PUD is not known, but it's thought that stomach acid production is your body's attempt to defend itself against bacteria.
You can think of stomach acid as something similar to the immune system; it's designed to attack bacteria and make them unable to "stomach" (make it difficult for them to live, grow, multiply).
The problem is, PUD develops when the immune system can fight off all the bacteria that would normally cause an ulcer. This leads to an overproducing stomach acid, which leads to the breakdown of the lining of the stomach and intestines.
There are some causes for Peptic Ulcer Disease that are related to the immune system. For example, some people get PUD after having a viral infection. Or if they have a very strong immune system (such as someone who is sick with AIDS).
But for most people who get PUD, it's thought that their body's immune system is working normally enough that it should be able to get rid of all the bacteria that would cause an ulcer.
It's not fully understood why some people get peptic ulcers and others don't, but several different factors have been linked to the development of a peptic ulcer.
Some of these risk factors include: being older than 50, smoking, drinking large amounts of alcohol, being stressed out or having anxiety/depression, being underweight or overweight, taking anti-inflammatory medications with bleeding as a side effect (such as aspirin), having Helicobacter pylori bacteria in your stomach, and taking NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
So there are a lot of things that can make you more likely to get a peptic ulcer. If you take any of these things, you're more likely to get one.
Even if nothing else is happening that might cause your stomach to hurt, it's still likely that the right amount of stress or other risks (like alcohol or smoking) will trigger an ulcer.
Also, if you take certain medications—especially if they contain ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) or aspirin—you're more likely to get PUD.
So What Can Help?
There are a few things that can help to prevent getting PUD.
First, you should be eating a healthy diet. Eating well is so important because it helps to maintain the lining of your stomach and intestines.
You can get PUD if your body doesn't get the right nutrients. Good eating habits include eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and drinking plenty of water.
If you're not eating enough healthy things (like fiber), you'll be more likely to experience stomach pain or other GI issues like heartburn or diarrhea.
Secondly, get regular check-ups (like this test) for food allergies and stress/anxiety disorders (that could make you excessively nervous).
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is A Peptic Ulcer?
It's a break in the mucous lining of your stomach, small intestine, or both. Mucus lines the inside of your digestive tract to help protect it from germs and other foreign substances.
It's made up of layers that keep the bad stuff out, and it becomes inflamed when there are too many germs or stress.
This causes acid to leak into the tissues around the ulcer. If you have pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, or diarrhea from this irritation, you have a peptic ulcer.
What Causes Peptic Ulcers?
The exact cause of peptic ulcers is not known. It's thought that an overactive immune system is partly to blame. Overproduction of stomach acid and/or a change in the lining of your digestive tract may contribute to ulcers.
Some factors that can increase your risk include: being older than 50, smoking, drinking large amounts of alcohol, having a strong immune system (such as someone who is sick with AIDS), and abusing NSAIDs—such as aspirin, Motrin®, or Advil®—that contain ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®).