DO I HAVE PEPTIC ULCER DISEASE?
A friend of mine, Mandy, had been experiencing severe abdominal pains after taking a diclofenac tablet prescribed by her doctor. She called him up and was advised to take an antacid, which she subsequently did. Within fifteen minutes of taking the antacid she had relief. Mandy was eventually diagnosed with peptic ulcer disease, also commonly known as a stomach sore, a condition that occurs when hydrochloric acid that is secreted by the stomach eventually erodes its own lining. The sore can specifically be referred to as a duodenal or gastric ulcer depending on whether it develops in the duodenum or stomach respectively.
Mandy’s experience is very relatable and by no means unique. However, her subtle symptoms prompted me to question how one would know if they have an ulcer or not? And more importantly, are there preventive measures in determining if a person is a high risk candidate for developing this condition?
There are various precedents to this condition, which most of us may take for granted. There is the general perception that ulcers usually come about by a person not eating. . While this is generally true, there are other causes that may bring about this condition. On the surface, Mandy seemed to have normal, healthy eating habits which made me wonder how she developed her ulcer condition. ..However, upon closer observation, I realized that she always allowed herself to get severely hungry before eating. A simple, innocent eating habit such as skipping breakfast could cause peptic ulcer in a lot of people. A second cause bacterial infection, Helicobacter pylori (H. Pylori) infection, is also a major cause of most peptic ulcers. This bacteria, researchers say, is transmitted through orofeacal routes and the oral – oral route.
If you suspect that you have a peptic ulcer condition, the first major symptom would be upper abdominal pain (epigastric pain). Other initial telling signs and symptoms include, nausea, vomiting, feverishness, bloating, gas in the stomach. Other symptoms include pain on ingestion of food, pain when hungry, palpitations and heart burn. When you experience any of these symptoms you should notify your doctor. Your doctor will ask you a number of questions and will run some tests to ascertain whether you have peptic ulcer. Depending on the severity of your condition, the following tests may be done; an endoscopy (looking into the stomach), a biopsy of the stomach lining (a piece of the lining is taken to the lab for analysis), a stool test and routine blood tests to rule out other conditions.
Once diagnosed with a peptic ulcer condition, there are a number of treatment options available to you, depending on your doctor’s findings. Your doctor will decide which of these options is the best course of action for you. H. Pylori peptic ulcers may be treated with the triple therapy approach, which involves an antibiotic combination taken over a fourteen day period. Your doctor will also prescribe proton pump inhibitors (omeprazole, nexium), which you will have to take for an extended period of time (as determined by your doctor). You may also be given antacids to relieve any heart burn. In complicated cases, such as a bowel perforation, surgery might be necessary.
Being diagnosed with a peptic ulcer condition also means that you have to modify your eating habits as well as your diet. Foods to avoid include but are not limited to, spicy food, pepper sauce and pepper, alcohol, carbonated drinks (minerals), caffeinated drinks etc. Eat at regular times and avoid feeling hungry. Some doctors may advise that you drink milk. Research has shown that milk does more harm than good in peptic ulcer patients. This is because milk aids in the secretion of acid in the stomach. Non steroidal anti – inflammatory drugs (NSAID) such as diclofenac are not advised for patients with peptic ulcers, as they are erosive.
Peptic ulcer disease is a simple and yet complicated condition that needs your utmost attention when diagnosed. Keep in mind that complications could arise from peptic ulcers such as, persistent abdominal pain, bowel perforation and in some cases cancer. In summary, it is important to know how your body works and observe what brings on the abdominal pain, then avoid whatever causes it. Listen to your doctor’s advice, take your prescribed medications diligently, don’t hesitate to ask questions when you do not understand, or are in doubt and above all, be faithful to yourself.
Theresa Aaban Yirerong,
SRN,SNO, Public Health Specialist (MPH)
Occupational health, safety and environmental officer.
Foundation For Orthopaedics and Complex Spine
Mobile: 233 244 663 509
e mail: [email protected]
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