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The duodenum is a part of the small intestine.

Any rupture or breakage in the inner lining of the duodenum is called a "duodenal ulcer".

The small intestine is divided into 3 parts:

  • Duodenum
  • Jejunum
  • Ileum

Signs and symptoms

Pain is the primary symptom patients will experience. The patient usually complains of burning and gnawing pain in the epigastrium (upper stomach) or near the umbilicus. Most patients also note that the pain gets worse between meals. This is easily explained -- when a person eats any kind of food, especially spicy food, the spices irritate the ulcers which causes the pain to get worse. Pain at night is due to an empty stomach. When the food enters the small intestine and the stomach becomes empty, the acid in the empty stomach begins to irritate the ruptured lining of the intestine, which causes pain.

Other symptoms are:

  • Heartburn
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Bloating

The symptoms get worse as the disease progresses. Symptoms of an advanced peptic ulcer include:

  • Hemetemesis (blood in vomit)
  • Severe abdominal pain -- hard to tolerate
  • Dark or black stools
  • Unexpected weight loss

Diagnosis

A duodenal ulcer or peptic ulcers are normally diagnosed on clinical basis. Doctors make the diagnosis with the help of the patient's clinical history and a physical examination. However, there are some tests that should be performed to rule out other possible causes and confirm the diagnosis. The following are the lab tests that are performed to confirm the diagnosis.

  • LFTs (Liver Functions Tests)
  • Urea breath test
  • Helicobacter Pylori test
  • Gastroscopy
  • Abdominal X-ray

Many people suffering from a duodenal ulcer in its early stages find it hard to differentiate if the pain is abdominal or back pain. The typical feature of duodenal ulcer pain is that the pain occurs at night and subsides when you get up and walk for while. The reason the pain occurs while lying flat is the reflux of acid from the stomach into the esophagus. When the person is in the horizontal position, the acid present in the stomach flows back into the upper food canal, which causes heartburn or a burning sensation in the upper abdomen.

Treatment and prevention

It is recommended that you visit your doctor to find out the exact cause of your abdominal pain. The doctor will perform a complete physical examination and will probably order some lab tests to confirm the diagnosis.

A duodenal ulcer is treated with medications and lifestyle changes. It is important to change your eating habits if you want permanent relief from the disease because drugs alone do not cure the ulcer properly.

Remember, it is necessary for patients suffering from a duodenal ulcer to keep an eye on their diet. Even after your treatment is finished, you are not allowed to eat spicy or smoked foods.

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