Anatomy of an Ulcer
- H. pylori bacteria can live in the stomach because they produce an enzyme that stops the corrosive effects of stomach acid.
- H. pylori's spiral shape allows it to get into the protective mucous layers of both the stomach and the duodenum.
- H. pylori can also weaken the stomach and duodenum by attaching to cells. This further weakens the stomach and duodenum's defense system.
- Not everyone who harbors the H. pylori bacteria will develop an ulcer.
- Being infected with H.pylori is a risk factor for developing stomach cancer.
- Internal bleeding
- Perforation (a hole) in the stomach or duodenum allowing food and bacteria to spill into the abdomen and cause infection and irritation
- Blockage of the opening between the stomach and duodenum due to chronic inflammation that leads to swelling and scarring
Discovering the Causes of Ulcers
The Telltale Burn
- Vomiting (can be bloody or appear like coffee grains) if the ulcer is bleeding
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of weight
- Bloody or black stool (caused by bleeding from the ulcer)
- Weakness (caused by bleeding from the ulcer)
- Endoscopy —an examination of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum via a small, flexible, camera-containing, tube-like instrument inserted through your throat
- Upper GI series —x-rays of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum are taken after you drink a chalky substance that outlines the shape of the digestive tract
Removing the Offending Agent
Steering Clear of Ulcers
- Wash hands thoroughly after using the bathroom and before eating
- Drink water from a clean source—H. pylori is transmitted from person to person through close contact and exposure to body fluids such as vomit.
The American College of Gastroenterology http://www.acg.gi.org/
National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases http://www.niddk.nih.gov/
College of Family Physicians of Canada http://www.cfpc.ca/
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/index-eng.php/
H. pylori and peptic ulcers. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Available at: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/hpylori/. Updated April 30, 2012. Accessed June 11, 2012.
Helicobacter pylori infection. EBSCO Dynamed website. Available at: http://ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 6, 2012. Accessed June 11, 2012.
International Agency for Research on Cancer. Schistosomes, liver flukes and Helicobacter pylori. IARC 1994; 61:177.
Peptic ulcer disease. EBSCO Dynamed website. Available at: http://ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 3, 2012. Accessed June 11, 2012.
Uemura N, Okamoto S, Yamamoto S, et al. Helicobacter pylori infection and the development of gastric cancer. N Engl J Med. 2001;345(11):784-789.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 06/2012 -