Causes and Risk Factors of Peptic Ulcer

The stomach lining is protected from the strong corrosive effect of gastric acid by a natural mucous barrier produced by cells lining the walls of the stomach and duodenum. A hormone in the stomach called gastrin is responsible for stimulating gastric acid production for digestion. Under normal condition, the body would produce a sufficient amount of gastric acid and other chemicals required for digestion. Typically, there would be a balance between the amount of gastric acid produced and the mucous defence barrier. However, when the secretion of gastric acid becomes abnormally high, this imbalance would cause damage to the lining of the stomach and duodenum, leading to the development of an ulcer.

Causes of Peptic Ulcer

The two most common causes of peptic ulcer are Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection and the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

1. Infection with H. pylori

Infection with H. pylori is the most common cause of peptic ulcer,  accounting for 8 in 10 cases. H. pylori is a type of bacteria that may be spread by unhygienic food and water. When they enter the body, they disrupt the protective mucous layer of the stomach or duodenum and cause the underlying tissues to be susceptible to damage by gastric acid. This can result in gastritis (a chronic inflammation of the stomach walls) and ulcers. For some people, H. pylori infection can also lead to stomach cancer.

causes of peptic ulcers - infection with H.pylori

Around two-thirds of the world’s population has H. pylori

2. Use of NSAIDs

NSAIDs are a group of drugs that provide pain-killing and fever-reducing effects. In high doses, they have anti-inflammatory effect. Among the common NSAIDs are aspirin, ibuprofen, diclofenac and naproxen. Aspirin is prescribed to reduce the blood clotting action of platelets and possibly, prevent a heart attack. Many people also turn to anti-inflammatory drugs for arthritis (joint inflammation), muscular pain and other pain-related problems.

causes of peptic ulcer - use of NSAIDs

However, these drugs may irritate the protective mucous layer of the stomach and duodenum, subjecting them to corrosion by gastric acid and eventually, the development of an ulcer. NSAIDs usage is the second most common cause of peptic ulcer, accounting for 2 in 10 cases. Among the precautions to prevent gastric ulcer by NSAIDs are consuming NSAIDs with a full stomach or complementing them with an antacid (which helps to neutralise excessive gastric acid).

causes of peptic ulcer - 2 in 10 cases by NSAIDs usage

2 in 10 cases of peptic ulcer are caused by NSAIDs usage