Duodenal ulcer is a medical condition in which there are sores on the lining of the stomach, specifically on the wall of the small intestines. These ulcers have similar symptoms to gastric ulcers. Both gastric ulcers and duodenal ulcers are categorized as peptic ulcers.
The duodenum is the initial part of the small intestine which has a length of approximately 25-38 cm. It is located at the bottom of the stomach and serves to connect the stomach to the second part of the small intestine, also known as the jejunum.
When the duodenum is injured, there will be pain in the stomach, right in the gut, and this may lead to blood vomiting. This condition will worsen if the patient consumes spicy food, smokes, and is coping with stress.
Causes of Duodenal Ulcer
Duodenal ulcers occur when the lining of the stomach which protects it from gastric acid is damaged, causing injury to the small intestine.
The wound will get worse if the patient smokes, is stressed out, and frequently consumes spicy food. However, these three things are not the main factors of duodenal ulcers.
Usually, a sore on the small intestine results from:
- Infection caused by a bacterium called helicobacter pylori (H. pylori).
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications consumption, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, especially if taken for a long time and in high doses.
Duodenal ulcers may also be caused by a disease called zollinger-ellison syndrome. Gastric cancer, lung cancer, stroke, and lung infections also have the potential to cause duodenal ulcer conditions.
When to See a Doctor for Duodenal Ulcer?
Duodenal ulcer patients should consult regarding their symptoms with an internist or a gastroenterologist. The examination is carried out via a medical interview first.
The doctor will ask about the patient’s medical history. Patients who have had duodenal ulcers in the past may potentially experience similar symptoms again.
If the doctor suspects a duodenal ulcer, there will be additional tests conducted. Follow-up tests include:
- X-rays. This is done by taking pictures on the inside of the body, starting from the esophagus to the stomach and small intestine. Prior to the examination, the patient will be asked to swallow a liquid containing barium which serves to show the injured area.
- Gastroscopy. An examination of the stomach using a long-tube like device with a camera and light at the end called an endoscope. Gastroscopy can detect the cause of the lesion in the small intestine.
In addition, the doctor may also perform tests to determine whether the duodenal ulcer is caused by the H. pylori virus. Tests may include:
- Stool test. A test done to find out if there is bleeding in the digestive tract. The doctor will take the patient’s stool sample and wait for several days to observe the development of H. pylori bacteria.
- Blood test. A test done by looking at the antibodies that appear and play a role against H. pylori bacteria.
- Urea breath test. A test performed to assess the presence of certain carbon dioxide gas that occurs due to H. pylori bacteria when the patient exhales.
Patients are advised to see a doctor immediately if they experience symptoms resembling duodenal ulcer, including vomiting blood, dark and bloody stools, and sudden abdominal pain.
Symptoms of Duodenal Ulcer
The most common symptom of duodenal ulcers is burning pain in the middle of the stomach or in the gut. However, in some patients, they do not feel pain.
Painful symptoms caused by duodenal ulcers can usually spread from the middle of the stomach or the gut to the neck, navel, and back. This condition can last for a few minutes to several hours. This may vary from person to person.
The pain will generally appear after eating and when you wake up at night.
Other symptoms of duodenal ulcers include:
- Stomach ache
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Weight loss.
- Bloody, black-colored stools
The symptoms above will get worse if the patient smokes, consumes alcohol, is dealing with stress, and consumes spicy food.
Treatment for Duodenal Ulcer
With treatment, duodenal ulcers generally can recover within one to two months. The method of treatment for patients varies, depending on the factors causing it.
In the mild cases of a duodenal ulcer, the doctor will give time for the wound in the small intestine to heal on its own. This healing will be supported by the consumption of a medicine called a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) to reduce acid levels in the stomach.
If the doctor assesses that the ulcer is caused by H. pylori bacteria, the doctor will give an antibiotic drug that functions to attack and kill bacteria. These antibiotics will help prevent duodenal ulcers from recurring.
Meanwhile, if the doctor suspects the duodenal ulcer is caused by the consumption of anti-inflammatory drugs, the patient may be recommended to reduce the dose, without completely stopping the consumption.
Duodenal ulcer patients are not recommended to treat symptoms on their own. It is always recommended to consult a doctor first.
Treatment Cost for Duodenal Ulcer
The cost for duodenal ulcer treatment varies, depending on the causes and treatment method chosen.
For more information regarding the estimated costs of duodenal ulcer treatment, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Duodenal Ulcer
Broadly speaking, duodenal ulcers can be prevented by controlling the consumption of anti-inflammatory medicines, such as paracetamol. Pay attention to the following when taking those medications:
- Eat first before taking your medicines
- Avoid consuming alcohol when taking anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Take the anti-inflammatory drug at the lowest dose and stop the consumption as soon as it gets better
The condition of duodenal ulcers will get worse and be difficult to heal if the patient does not maintain stomach health, such as by smoking, consuming alcohol, and eating spicy foods.
Home Remedies for Patients Diagnosed with Duodenal Ulcer
Home remedies for treating duodenal ulcers include routinely taking medicines prescribed by the doctor. It is recommended to not buy drugs yourself over the counter – rather, consume medications prescribed by your doctor.
In addition, you should avoid smoking, consuming spicy foods, and consuming alcohol for some time. These three habits may worsen your ulcer.
Try to avoid stressful situations, as stress may trigger duodenal ulcers.