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Peptic ulcers can feel like indigestion, hunger pangs or heartburn and can be potentially dangerous. If you experience persistent symptoms then you should consult your GP.
The two main causes of peptic ulcers caused by a bacterium called Heliobacter pylori or the use of anti-rheumatic medicines, Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) or aspirin.
Diagnosis of peptic ulcers is with the use of a gastroscopy, which involves taking a look at the lining of the gullet, stomach and duodenum with a small fibre-optic camera.
If a peptic ulcer is diagnosed there are different treatments depending on the cause. If the ulcer is caused by Heliobacter pylori it is treated by taking three different medicines. They are usually a proton pump inhibitor such as omeprazole or lansoprazole and two types of antibiotics such as amoxicillin, clarithromycin or metronizadole. In many cases, one week of treatment is sufficient. It is enough time to remove all the ulcer bacteria. In some cases, the wound is not fully healed and it is necessary to continue for a few weeks with further acid-inhibiting treatment.
Ulcers caused by aspirin or NSAIDs are treated differently. First of all, patients should stop taking these medicines, but ONLY if they have consulted their GP. Treatment is then with an H2 antagonist such as ranitidine or a proton pump inhibitor. The ulcer is usually examined again with a gastroscopy after six weeks.