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A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.
It is possible to develop peptic ulcer disease with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing peptic ulcer disease. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your healthcare provider what you can do to reduce your risk.
Risk factors for peptic ulcers fall into two categories:
- Factors that actually cause peptic ulcers
- Factors that irritate your stomach or increase acid production, making you more susceptible to H. pylori infection
- Some studies suggest that cigarette smoking can increase the risk of H. pylori and can slow the healing of peptic ulcers.
- Drinking acidic beverages such as fruit juices and consuming caffeine-containing foods and beverages can cause stomach irritation and increase production of stomach acid. This can make you more susceptible to H. pylori infection.
- Alcohol in large quantities can irritate your stomach, leading to an increased susceptibility to H. pylori .
- Alcohol taken while you are using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents can further irritate your stomach, increasing your chance of developing a peptic ulcer.
- Even in the absence of alcohol misuse, certain anti-inflammatory medications (including aspirin and most other drugs commonly available over-the-counter or by prescription as nonsteroidals) can increase the risk of peptic ulcer. These drugs are responsible for at least half of all peptic ulcers in elderly persons.
Helicobacter Pylori Infection
Infection with Helicobacter pylori is the most well-defined risk factor for the development of peptic ulcers. You have an increased risk of being infected with H. pylori if you: Live in crowded conditionsLive in unsanitary conditions Use certain medications, including: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicationsCOX-2 inhibitorsCorticosteroid drugs (although this connection is less clear than the others)Had prior peptic ulcer disease Have Zollinger-Ellison syndromeRecently had major surgeryRecently suffered severe injury or burnsHad head traumaHad radiation therapyHave congenital malformations of the stomach and/or duodenumHave specific malignant diseases such as mastocytosis and basophilic leukemiaAgeDuodenal ulcers: More common between ages 30-50years oldGastric ulcer: More common in people over age 60years oldGenderDuodenal ulcers: Twice as likely in menGastric ulcers: More common in womenGenetic FactorsYoure more likely to develop a peptic ulcer if you have other family members who have had ulcers.Ethnic BackgroundYou have twice the risk of developing a peptic ulcer if you are of African-American or Hispanic background.OtherRisk FactorsStress is no longer believed to actually cause ulcers. However, many researchers still believe that stress can play a role in exacerbating symptoms and slow healing of pre-existing peptic ulcers.You may have an increased risk of peptic ulcers if you have type O blood. References:
American College of Gastroenterologywebsite. Available at: http://www.acg.gi.org/ . Accessed March 3, 2006. Cecil RL, Goldman L, Bennett JC. Cecil Textbook of Medicine . 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2000. Meurer LN, Bower DJ. Management of helicobacter pylori infection. Am Fam Physician [online]. Apr 2002;65(7). Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/20020401/1327.html. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Available at:. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ . Accessed March 3, 2006. Last reviewed January 2007 by Lawrence Frisch, MD, MPHPlease be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.