DAN Medical Frequently Asked Questions

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Peptic Ulceration

What's the difference between peptic, duodenal and gastric ulcers? Are any or all of these contraindications to diving?

A peptic ulcer is a breakdown of the inner lining of the stomach or duodenum, the first part of the small intestine. Acid and pepsin, the chief active principal in gastric juice with acid, play major roles in creating and developing this ulcer. Peptic ulcer includes duodenal ulcer (DU) and gastric ulcer (GU); both are chronic diseases, often caused by a bacterium Helicobacter pylori. They may be caused by stress or by ingesting drugs, most commonly, aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen. Peptic ulcer is caused when defenses provided by the mucous membrane fail to protect the lining of the stomach from the corrosive effects of acid and pepsin.

Symptoms can be sudden, severe and disabling. Usually consisting of pain in the upper central abdomen, it is often described as a sharp, burning or gnawing pain. Complications include bleeding, which can cause anemia, general fatigue and a reduced tolerance for exercise. Other complications include perforation, which requires immediate surgery, and obstruction of the duodenum.

Diving is not recommended for individuals with symptoms of peptic ulcer disease. However, one who is symptom-free for more than a month may consider diving.

Some medications used to control stomach acids may cause side effects. Check with your physician. Peptic ulcer may also be corrected by surgery. After abdominal surgery and all activities have returned to normal, one may consider scuba diving (see “Dumping Syndrome”).