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A peptic or stomach ulcer is an erosion into the lining of the stomach or the duodenum. Both places are sensitive to getting ulcerated due to infection, excess acid and stress. Ulcers in the stomach are called gastric or peptic ulcers. Duodenal ulcers occur in the first twelve inches past the stomach in the first portion of the intestinal tract. Stomach ulcers are not contagious and they do not represent a cancerous lesion. Very rarely, a stomach ulcer can become malignant (cancerous). Stomach ulcers are common diseases, affecting many millions of people each year. Stomach ulcers can be as small as an eighth of an inch in diameter or as large as two centimeters in diameter.

Stomach ulcers are caused by destruction of the stomach or duodenal lining by hydrochloric acid, a normal acid found in the stomach. Just the acid alone rarely causes the disease. It often takes a secondary infection with Helicobacter pylori in order to make the ulceration more likely. A poor immune system can predispose a person to getting a stomach ulcer. Excess secretion of stomach acid can predispose one to getting a stomach ulcer. Psychogenic stress can predispose one to getting a duodenal ulcer and the use of anti-inflammatory medication and cigarette smoke can contribute a person to getting a stomach or duodenal ulcer.

Risk factors to getting a stomach ulcer include family history of similar ulcers, alcohol use, cigarette smoking, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory usage, having Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome (excess stomach acid production), eating a poor diet, being blood type O, being under stress, and having diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, emphysema or liver disease. Having had major trauma recently can contribute to getting a stomach ulcer.

Symptoms of a stomach ulcer include a burning pain in the upper abdomen associated with heartburn, hunger pangs or indigestion. It can occur on an empty stomach or immediately after eating. Pain is often better when drinking milk, taking antacids, eating mild foods and resting. If you have a stomach ulcer, you often have a poor appetite and can lose weight before the condition is treated. If there is bleeding of a stomach ulcer, you can get black stools, black vomitus or positive blood testing for occult blood in the stool or emesis.

According to stomach ulcer statistics, about 20 million people get at least one stomach ulcer in their life. About four million ulcers occur in the US per year and about 40,000 individuals heed surgery to correct protracted stomach ulcers. Six thousand people die in the US each year related to stomach ulcers.

Treatment of stomach ulcers is directed at getting rid of an H. pylori infection and allowing the stomach ulcer to heal. For example, antibiotics are used for up to a month in order to get rid of an H. pylori infection. Acid reducers are used to lessen the degree of stomach acid in the stomach. These can include antacids like TUMS or Mylanta. More powerful medications include Histamine 2 blockers that act on the histamine 2 receptor, reducing the amount of stomach acid used. Tagamet and Zantac are examples of an H 2 blocker. The strongest medicine in reducing stomach acid includes proton pump inhibitors. Prilosec and Prevacid are examples of a proton pump inhibitor that shuts down the production of stomach acid in the stomach. Surgery is very rarely applied to treat stomach ulcers, especially now that good medication exists to heal the problem. Surgery will remove a part of the stomach so that less stomach acid is produced. The surgery also cuts out the stomach ulcer itself.

Complications of stomach ulcers include heavy bleeding which can be fatal. If not fatal, the bleeding can result in anaemia, which can be symptomatic. The ulcer can perforate, yielding stomach acid and bacteria in the abdominal space. This results in the need for surgery to correct the problem.

HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634

Medical Negligence Solicitors

Our personal injury solicitors operate a specialist medical negligence compensation service. Our Stomach Ulcer solicitors deal with claims using a no win no fee arrangement which means that if you don�t win then you don�t pay them their professional costs. If you would like legal advice at no cost with no further obligation just complete the contact form or email our lawyers offices or use the helpline and a Stomach Ulcer solicitor will review your medical negligence compensation claim and phone you immediately.

HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634

The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here