What is a peptic ulcer?
Peptic ulcer is a non-malignant ulcer of the stomach (called gastric ulcer) or duodenum (called duodenal ulcer). By far most instances are now known to be be due to Helicobacter pylori, a spiral-shaped bacterium that lives in the acid environment of the stomach. These ulcers can also be caused or worsened by drugs such as Aspirin and other NSAIDs. Ulcers are small,
open craters or sores that develop in the lining of the stomach or the duodenum, the first section of the small intestine.
Ulcers penetrate into the lining of the stomach or duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). A peptic ulcer is a hole in the gut lining of the stomach, duodenum, or esophagus. A peptic ulcer of the stomach is called a gastric ulcer; of the duodenum, a duodenal ulcer; and of the esophagus, an esophageal ulcer. An ulcer occurs when the lining of these organs is corroded by the acidic digestive juices which are secreted by the stomach cells. Peptic ulcer disease is common, affecting millions of Americans yearly. The medical cost of treating peptic ulcer and its complications runs in the billions of dollars annually. Recent medical advances have increased our understanding of ulcer formation.
Peptic ulcers occur only in those areas of the digestive system that come in contact with digestive juices secreted by the stomach. These juices include stomach acid -- basically, hydrochloric acid - and an enzyme called pepsin, which breaks down proteins. While many people with duodenal ulcers have an overabundance of digestive juices spilling down from the stomach, most of those with gastric (stomach) ulcers have normal or even below-normal amounts of stomach acid. Medical researchers, therefore, believe that poor resistance of the protective mucous membrane that lines both the stomach and duodenum may contribute to the development of a peptic ulcer.