Most people with severe ulcers experience significant pain and sleeplessness, which can have a dramatic and adverse impact on their quality of life.
Peptic ulcers can also have a major effect on a person's finances. Research finds that the complications of peptic ulcer disease can cost from $1,800 to more than $25,000 per patient.
Bleeding and hemorrhage
Peptic ulcers caused by H. pylori or NSAIDs can be very serious if they cause hemorrhage or perforate the stomach or duodenum. Up to 15% of people with ulcers experience some degree of bleeding, which can be life-threatening. Ulcers that form where the small intestine joins the stomach can swell and scar, resulting in a narrowing or closing of the intestinal opening. In such cases, the patient will vomit the entire contents of the stomach, and emergency treatment is necessary.
Complications of peptic ulcers cause an estimated 6,500 deaths each year. These figures, however, do not reflect the high number of deaths associated with NSAID use. Ulcers caused by NSAIDs are more likely to bleed than those caused by H. pylori.
Because there are often no GI symptoms from NSAID ulcers until bleeding begins, doctors cannot predict which patients taking these drugs will develop bleeding. The risk for a poor outcome is highest in people who have had long-term bleeding from NSAIDs, blood clotting disorders, low systolic blood pressure, mental instability, or another serious and unstable medical condition. Populations at greatest risk are the elderly and those with other serious conditions, such as heart problems.
Stomach Cancer and Other Conditions Associated with H. pylori
H. pylori is strongly associated with certain cancers. Some studies have also linked it to a number of non-gastrointestinal illnesses, although the evidence is inconsistent.
Review Date: 07/18/2011
Reviewed By: Reviewed by: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.