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Understanding Peptic Ulcers: Causes, Risks, and Prevention

Causes of Ulcers Peptic ulcers arise from several key factors. Long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen is a major contributor. Infection with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria also plays a significant role.

What is an Ulcer?

An ulcer is a sore or erosion that develops in the stomach’s wall or in the duodenum, which is the initial part of the small intestine. It typically occurs in the mucosa, the layer that lines these areas, but can extend deeper if untreated.

Peptic ulcers in the stomach are known as gastric ulcers, while those in the duodenum are referred to as duodenal ulcers.

The stomach secretes a strong acid to help digest food and protect against microbes. To safeguard body tissues from this acid, it also produces a thick mucus layer.

If this protective layer wears away and becomes ineffective, the acid can damage the stomach tissue, leading to an ulcer.

Causes of Ulcers

Common Causes of Ulcers

The two primary causes of gastric and duodenal ulcers are:

  • H. pylori bacteria
  • NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and aspirin

Other less common causes include:

  • Excessive stomach acidity may result from genetics, stress, smoking, or certain foods.
  • Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome, is a rare condition that causes excessive stomach acid production.

Risk Factors

Certain behaviors and conditions can increase the likelihood of developing a gastric ulcer. These include:

  • Regular use of steroids
  • Smoking
  • Excessive calcium production or hypercalcemia
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Frequent alcohol consumption

Ulcers are more prevalent in individuals over 50 years of age but can occur at any age. In children, the risk is higher if their parents smoke.

NSAIDs and Stomach Ulcers NSAIDs carry a risk of causing stomach ulcers. The risk increases with high doses or long-term use. Prescription NSAIDs pose a greater risk than over-the-counter (OTC) varieties.

It’s crucial to read medication labels carefully and discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider, who may recommend alternatives like acetaminophen.

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