What is it?
A peptic ulcer is a small break in the digestive system. It is called a gastric ulcer when it occurs in the stomach and a duodenal ulcer when it appears in the bit of the small intestine which joins on the stomach.
Symptoms: Burning, gnawing pain in the upper part of the abdomen, Pain may occur an hour or two after meals, or it may wake in the early hours of the morning. The intake of food or antacids usually relieves the pain.
Causes: Certain medicines such as aspirin and the drugs used in the treatment of arthritis, Smoking, the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, Excess acid in the stomach, damage to the mucus layer of the stomach, emotional stress.
Possible complications: Perforation and bleeding, peritonitis.
Treatment in the home: Rest, eat small, frequent meals, avoid alcohol, fried and highly seasoned foods. Do not smoke, take antacids to neutralize acid and relieve pain.
When to consult a doctor: If symptoms are progressive, severe or persist for more than two weeks.
What the doctor may do: Take a clinical history and do a physical examination, arrange for an endoscopy to confirm the diagnosis. Prescribe drugs that reduce and/or neutrilise acid secretion, relieve symptoms and promote healing. Give advice on diet and life-style.