Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs as a Serious Risk Factor for Ulcer

Ulcer is a common type of digestive disorder that can affect different levels of the gastrointestinal system. Ulcer generally causes inflammation and open lesions to the soft tissues and organs of the gastrointestinal tract. The most common types of ulcer are duodenal and stomach ulcer. While most duodenal ulcers are mild, stomach ulcers can lead to serious complications such as perforation of the stomach wall and internal bleeding. In some cases, stomach ulcer can eventually lead to gastric cancer, a life-threatening disease.

There are various causes and risk factors of stomach ulcer. The major causes of stomach ulcer are infection with Helicobacter pylori bacteria and the stomach’s overproduction of digestive fluids. The categories at risk of developing stomach ulcer are: people with ages over 50, smokers, people who have suffered abdominal surgery, people who have acquired abdominal injuries and people who follow ongoing treatments with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID).

Recent studies have revealed that certain medications have a great contribution in the occurrence of stomach ulcer. Commonly prescribed in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs greatly increase the risk of developing stomach ulcer. These drugs affect the digestive system on multiple levels: they weaken the mucosal protective cover of the internal organs; they stimulate an overproduction of gastric acid and pepsin; they perturb the blood circulation at the level of the stomach.

Diclofenac is a common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug prescribed in the treatment of arthritis. This medication is known to block the body’s production of cox enzymes, chemicals that have a very important role in renewing the stomach’s protective mucosal cover, considerably increasing the risk of developing stomach ulcer. Statistics indicate that ongoing treatment with Diclofenac is responsible for causing more than 150.000 new annual cases of ulcer in the United States. Furthermore, an annual number of 10.000 patients who follow prolonged treatments with this drug are expected to die as a consequence of ulcer complications.

Although new generation non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Celebrex are considered to be safe, most patients who follow prolonged treatments with these medications also develop ulcer or other gastrointestinal disorders. Recent studies indicate that more than 10 percent of patients who receive ongoing treatment for arthritis develop recurrent ulcers. In time, some of these patients also develop serious complications such as perforated or bleeding ulcers.

In present, medical science is unable to replace non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs with other safer medications. Although non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have many side-effects, they are also the primary option in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. In order to prevent the occurrence of ulcer in patients who receive such medication treatments, this category of people should benefit from frequent medical examinations.

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