ESSAYS Health & Fitness

Learn about peptic ulcer disease

Bruce Springsteen announced on Wednesday night that he would be postponing September shows because he is being treated for symptoms of peptic ulcer disease.

Such symptoms are common, said Dr. William Chey, chief of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at Michigan Medicine, and typically include nausea and burning, stabbing pain in the upper abdomen (just below the sternum.) People with peptic ulcers can also experience bloating, stomach pain after meals and a sensation of fullness that comes on quickly. In serious cases, they can have unexplained weight loss, vomit blood or material that resembles coffee grounds, or have black, tar-like stool.

But of those who experience peptic ulcer symptoms, only a small fraction are likely to actually have ulcers, Dr. Chey said.

“There’s a big difference between the symptoms of peptic ulcer disease and having peptic ulcer disease,” he added.

Photo Credit medicinenet.com

Peptic ulcers are defects in the lining of the stomach or small intestine that present like shallow sores, Dr. Scott Gabbard, a gastroenterologist at the Cleveland Clinic, said. It is more common in older people, but anyone can get the disease.

Around 5 to 10 percent of the general global population will develop peptic ulcers at some point in their lives, but many patients are asymptomatic. They may not know they have these ulcers until they experience bleeding, Dr. Harold J. Boutte, Jr., a gastroenterologist at Northwestern Medicine, said. But for those who do have symptoms, they can be painful, disruptive and, in some cases, debilitating.

A bacteria called Helicobacter pylori is a major cause of peptic ulcer disease cases. Many people infected with this bacteria do not get ulcers or show any sign that they are infected, Dr. Gabbard said.

It’s not totally clear what makes one person more likely than another to develop ulcers from H. pylori. The bacteria can spread orally and can transmit among members of the same household, Dr. Amy Oxentenko, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic, said.

Another common cause of peptic ulcers is medications known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like those that bring down a fever or relieve joint pain — think aspirin, naproxen and ibuprofen. The higher the dose you take, and the more regularly you take it, the more likely you are to develop an ulcer, said Dr. Mark Pochapin, director of the gastroenterology and hepatology division at NYU Langone Health. Occasional use likely won’t lead to ulcers, but daily use raises the risk.

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