Causes of stomach ulcers
Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and aspirin can increase the risk of peptic ulcer disease by four times compared to non-users. The risk of getting peptic ulcer is two times for aspirin users. Risk of bleeding increases if NSAIDs are combined with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), corticosteroids, antimineralocorticoids, and anticoagulants. The gastric mucosa protects itself from gastric acid with a layer of mucus, the secretion of which is stimulated by certain prostaglandins. NSAIDs block the function of cyclooxygenase 1 (COX-1), which is essential for the production of these prostaglandins. Besides this, NSAIDs also inhibit stomach mucosa cells proliferation and mucosal blood flow, reducing bicarbonate and mucus secretion, which reduces the integrity of the mucosa. Another type of NSAIDs, called COX-2 selective anti-inflammatory drugs (such as celecoxib), preferentially inhibit COX-2, which is less essential in the gastric mucosa. This reduces the probability of getting peptic ulcers; however, it can still delay ulcer healing for those who already have a peptic ulcer.
Stress due to serious health problems, such as those requiring treatment in an intensive care unit, is well described as a cause of peptic ulcers, which are also known as stress ulcers.
While chronic life stress was once believed to be the main cause of ulcers, this is no longer the case. It is, however, still occasionally believed to play a role. This may be due to the well-documented effects of stress on gastric physiology, increasing the risk in those with other causes, such as H. pylori or NSAID use.
Dietary factors, such as spice consumption, were hypothesized to cause ulcers until the late 20th century, but have been shown to be of relatively minor importance. Caffeine and coffee, also commonly thought to cause or exacerbate ulcers, appear to have little effect. Similarly, while studies have found that alcohol consumption increases risk when associated with H. pylori infection, it does not seem to independently increase risk. Even when coupled with H. pylori infection, the increase is modest in comparison to the primary risk factor.
Other causes of peptic ulcer disease include gastric ischaemia, drugs, metabolic disturbances, cytomegalovirus (CMV), upper abdominal radiotherapy, Crohn's disease, and vasculitis. Gastrinomas (Zollinger–Ellison syndrome), or rare gastrin-secreting tumors, also cause multiple and difficult-to-heal ulcers.
It is still unclear if smoking increases the risk of getting peptic ulcers.
Prevention of peptic ulcer disease for those who are taking NSAIDs (with low cardiovascular risk) can be achieved by adding a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), an H2 antagonist, or misoprostol. NSAIDs of the COX-2 inhibitors type may reduce the rate of ulcers when compared to non-selective NSAIDs. PPI is the most popular agent in peptic ulcer prevention. However, there is no evidence that H2 antagonists can prevent stomach bleeding for those taking NSAIDs. Although misoprostol is effective in preventing peptic ulcer, its properties of promoting abortion and causing gastrointestinal distress limit its use. For those with high cardiovascular risk, naproxen with PPI can be a useful choice. Otherwise, low-dose aspirin, celecoxib, and PPI can also be used.
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