The ulcer’s days are numbered

Those who thought their ulcer was simply the result of stress and/or a bad diet are in for some good news. Recent medical research has provided conclusive evidence that a majority of stomach ulcers are caused by a bacteria called “Helicobacter pylori”. Approximately 30 to 40 per cent of Canadians are infected with this bacterium, and about 10 to 20 per cent, or three million people, of those infected will have related diseases, especially stomach ulcers.

“It has been just over a decade since researchers discovered that the H. pylori bacterium is causing ulcers,” says Dr. Sander Veldhuyzen van Zanten, co-chair of a recent medical symposium in Ottawa. “By eliminating the bacteria, doctors can cure the ulcer for good. With the old treatments, the recurrence rate of the ulcer was up to 80 per cent.”

Until recently, it was not uncommon for patients to be taking a prescribed ulcer medication for 20 to 25 years. Now, their ulcers can be cured by a one week therapy which aims to cure the stomach infection. This has almost eliminated the need for stomach surgery, and has dramatically reduced complications such as bleeding of the ulcer or the need for hospitalization.

Later this nth, the Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology will publish Canadian guidelines describing which patients need to have their infection treated, and what treatment to use. In the meantime, ask your doctor about the new treatments for ulcers.