Educational Articles

Duodenal Ulcer

Duodenal ulcer


The duodenum is a portion of small intestine that connects the stomach to the colon. The first portion of small intestine measuring approximately 30cm is called the duodenum. The duodenal ulcer forms when the lining of the small intestine is eroded and a crater-like ulcer is formed in the duodenum.


 Duodenal Ulcer


The cause of duodenal ulcer is similar to the ulcer that forms in the stomach. In fact, ulcers that form in the stomach and the duodenum, as a group are called peptic ulcers. The most important cause of duodenal ulcer is the infection by Helicobacter pylori. This organism resides in the upper intestinal tract and causes inflammation and ulcer. Commonly used pain medications such as Aspirin, Advil, and Motrin, are also important causes of duodenal ulcer. Additional causes include smoking and alcohol. Stress can also promote duodenal ulcer.



The most common symptom associated with duodenal ulcer is abdominal pain. The pain is most common in the upper abdomen, and can be aggravated by eating. The duodenal ulcer at times can cause bleeding that can result in black, tarry stool or vomiting of blood. The ulcer in rare cases can penetrate the entire extent of the intestinal wall, creating a small hole in the bowel wall.  Unlike the ulcer in the stomach, however, the duodenal ulcer is not associated with any risk of cancer.


The upper endoscopy examination is the best method of diagnosing the duodenal ulcer. It allows a complete inspection of the inner lining of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. Additionally, a sampling of the stomach wall can be taken during the examination to test for Helicobacter pylori. If necessary, measures to stop the bleeding from an ulcer can be undertaken during the procedure.


To treat a duodenal ulcer, it is important to eliminate factors responsible for the development of the disease. It is therefore advisable to stop smoking and drinking, discontinue aspirin or other pain medications, and avoid stress. If detected, Helicobacter pylori needs to be treated with antibiotics. Finally, taking medications that suppresses the production of acid in the stomach is helpful in healing of the ulcer. These medications include Pepcid, Zantac, Tagamet, as well as Prilosec, Prevacid, and Aciphex.







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