Peptic ulcer arises from a break in the abdominal lining either in the upper part of the intestine or lower esophagus resulting in gastrointestinal sores.
Depending on the location of the ulcer, peptic ulcer is divided into two types:
Some symptoms are based on the location of the ulcer and the patient’s age. Both types of peptic ulcer share some common symptoms. The following symptoms are found in peptic ulcer disease:
Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium, has been implicated in both types of peptic ulcer causing more than 50% of both types of ulcer. Despite the presence of H. pylori antibodies in serum, the immune system is unable to fight and resolve infections due to H. pylori, which colonize the anterior part of the stomach mucosa, leading to chronic inflammation that often results in gastritis.
Drugs such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are also a major factor leading to peptic ulcer. NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and aspirin function by blocking the enzyme responsible for secreting prostaglandins, which help protect the gastric mucosa by stimulating the coating of the mucosa with a layer of mucus. When this happens, the gastric mucosa becomes unprotected from gastric acid, and this will eventually result in ulceration.
Unusual causes of peptic ulcer are the constant using of tobacco, Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, liver cirrhosis, stress arising from severe illness, Behcet disease and Crohn disease.
Diagnosis of peptic ulcer is tailored to the type of symptoms which the patient presents. Usually, doctors give empirical treatment based on the present signs and symptoms. Laboratory tests and other diagnostic procedures are undertaken when the disease fails to resolve.
Some researchers have found that the risk of developing stomach ulcers increase with age and some factors, such as reduced ability to heal injuries, also plan an important role. Gastric stem cells isolated from young mice have been experimentally transplanted into older mice with stomach ulcer. The transplanted cells which replaced cells at the site of injury were observed and found to speed-up the healing process. These stem cells from older mice were unable to differentiate into the specialized cell type which is responsible for the healing process.
With the researches done so far on the use of stem cell for the treatment of stomach ulcers, there is hope that with stem cell therapy, peptic ulcer disease would not be difficult to deal with in the near future.
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