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Peptic Ulcers

What are Peptic Ulcers?
Peptic ulcers refer to a condition where one or more ulcers are found in either the stomach or duodenum (first part of the small intestine).

What are the causes Peptic Ulcers?
The most common causes of peptic ulcers include a bacterial infection with Helicobacter pylori, certain painkillers (NSAIDs) or stomach (gastric) cancer.

> Helicobacter pylori – Infection with Helicobacter pylori is associated with peptic ulcers, and stomach cancer. However, the majority of people with this bacteria do not get these conditions. In Australia, Helicobacter pylori may be diagnosed with a Gastroscopy, Stool test or Urease breath test.

> NSAIDs (non-steroidal painkillers) – These medications include Nurofen, Naproxen and Voltaren amongst others. NSAIDs reduce the protective mucous lining of the stomach leading to ulcers.

What are the symptoms of Peptic Ulcers?
The most common symptom is upper abdominal pain or discomfort. Other symptoms may include: an early sense of fullness with eating, nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, vomiting blood, or blood in the stools (black or red).

How are Peptic Ulcers diagnosed?
Peptic ulcers are diagnosed via Gastroscopy, which is a procedure that enables your doctor to directly examine of the lining of the stomach and duodenum.

What is the treatment for Peptic Ulcers?
Most peptic ulcers heal with treatment. The first step is to identify a cause. NSAID medication should always be stopped if an ulcer is found. Helicobacter pylori infection is treated with antibiotics and an antacid medication.

What are the complications of Peptic Ulcers?
The complications of peptic ulcers may be serious, and include bleeding or perforation (puncture in the lining of the stomach or duodenum). Bleeding if present can usually be controlled during the gastroscopy procedure. Perforation causes sudden onset severe abdominal pain, and usually requires emergency surgery.

Is there any follow up for Peptic Ulcers?
A repeat gastroscopy is necessary following treatment for a stomach ulcer to ensure that it is completely healed, and does not contain any cancer cells. Eradication of the H.pylori bacteria can be confirmed via stool or breath tests.

Can Peptic Ulcers come back after treatment?
Yes, peptic ulcers can be recurrent. This is more common in people who smoke or continue to take NSAIDs.

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