5 Things to Know About Peptic Ulcer Disease

A person experiencing peptic ulcer

Recently, world-famous musician Bruce Springsteen announced that he suffers from peptic ulcers, leading him to postpone several concerts. What exactly is peptic ulcer disease (“PUD”), and why might it cause “The Boss” to need time off to heal? Dr. Tanya Khan with Emerson Health Gastroenterology explores five things to know about PUD.

1. Peptic Ulcers Are Quite Common:

PUD is a common issue in which sores develop in the inner lining of the GI (gastrointestinal) tract, most often in the stomach or the first part of the small bowel called the duodenum. PUD affects millions of people worldwide. An estimated 5-10% of people will have PUD in their lifetime. Ulcers can occur at any age, and incidence increases in older adults.

2. Emotional Stress Is Not the Main Culprit:

Contrary to popular belief, ulcers are not directly caused by emotional stress, although it can exacerbate symptoms. The two most important causes of PUD are infection by Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria or prolonged use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). While Springsteen’s busy performance schedule may be contributing to his symptoms, other causes of this painful condition exist.

3. Symptoms Vary:

Many patients may have no symptoms, while others may experience gnawing or burning upper abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, or vomiting. Complications of severe PUD can be life-threatening. These include gastrointestinal bleeding and, in rare cases, perforation when ulcers become progressively deeper and penetrate through the gastrointestinal wall.

4. Diagnosis and Treatment Are Key:

Early diagnosis is essential to manage PUD effectively. A gastroenterologist can help diagnose and treat the condition. Patients with ongoing or severe symptoms such as bleeding should receive an upper endoscopy test. Treatment includes proton pump inhibitors to reduce stomach acid production and antibiotics against H. pylori if the bacteria is detected. The treatment generally lasts for several weeks and will successfully heal most ulcers.

5. Lifestyle Changes Matter: 

Lifestyle modifications can help alleviate symptoms and reduce the risk of recurrence. These modifications can include avoiding alcohol, smoking, and chewing tobacco. You may also consider reducing regular NSAID use.

Peptic ulcers are a common ailment. With timely diagnosis, proper treatment, and lifestyle adjustments, you can manage them effectively. If you experience persistent abdominal pain or other concerning symptoms, do not hesitate to seek medical advice. It is essential to prioritize your health, just as “The Boss” did.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Tanya Khan at Emerson Health Gastroenterology, visit emersonhospital.org/locations/emerson-health-gastroenterology or call 978-287-3835.