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A peptic ulcer is a lesion or raw sore in the stomach lining, small intestine, or esophagus. This sore develops when stomach acid and digestive juices eat away at the tissues of the body. Once thought to be caused by stress or diet, it is now known that peptic ulcers are the result of bacteria or certain medications. Hemorrhage is a common complication of peptic ulcers and can cause an ulcer sufferer to notice blood in his or her vomit or stool. By killing the harmful bacteria and reducing the level of digestive acid, a bleeding peptic ulcer can be treated or even cured.
Ulcers can occur in different areas of the body. A gastic ulcer occurs in the stomach, while a duodenal ulcer develops in the duodenum, commonly called the small intestine. A esophageal ulcer is located in the esophagus and may be caused by or related to a condition known as reflux. Left untreated, any of these ulcers can develop into a bleeding peptic ulcer.
The first sign of a peptic ulcer is usually pain in the stomach. This pain is often described as a burning sensation located somewhere between the breastbone and navel area. The burning is caused by stomach acid coming into contact with sensitive ulcerated tissues. It is normal for the pain to come and go, worsen at night, or improve with eating or taking antacid treatments.
Doctors and scientists used to believe that peptic ulcers were caused by stress or an unhealthy diet. Current research does not support those theories, and it is now known that ulcers are often caused by bacteria or certain medications. One bacteria known in particular to trigger peptic ulcers is Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). This bacteria can live in the protective layer of the stomach. Although it is often harmless, H. pylori can occasionally multiply and erode the delicate digestive tissues.
Peptic ulcers can also be caused by certain medications. Commonly-used drugs known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are irritating to the digestive tissue and stomach. These drugs should be taken with meals or avoided by people at risk of developing a peptic ulcer.
A bleeding peptic ulcer is one complication that occurs when stomach acid and digestive juices eat into blood vessels of an eroded digestive tract. Blood leaks into the digestive tract and can be seen in vomit or stool. Although it is one of the most common ulcer complications, a bleeding peptic ulcer can lead to anemia or severe blood loss, and must be addressed. Common treatment for a bleeding peptic ulcer includes antibiotics to fight bacteria, drugs to neutralize or reduce stomach acid, and protection for the eroded tissues.
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