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Duodenal Ulcer Not Diagnosed

Duodenal Ulcer Not Diagnosed

A duodenal ulcer can be successfully treated with medication alone. However, if a duodenal ulcer is left untreated, it can become a life-threatening condition.

If you have suffered complications because a duodenal ulcer was not diagnosed and treated properly, you need to talk to a solicitor about the care you received. You could be entitled to pursue a claim for compensation.

At Glynns Solicitors we specialise in medical negligence claims and offer a free initial enquiry. This gives you the chance to talk to a lawyer free of charge, helping you establish whether you have been the victim of medical negligence.

For more information about claiming compensation for a duodenal ulcer, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us today.

What is a duodenal ulcer?

The duodenum is the first section of the small intestine. An ulcer is an open sore which happens when the skin or membrane breaks and fails to heal. A duodenal ulcer is an open sore that develops in the small intestine.

Duodenal ulcers are also known as peptic ulcers or gastric ulcers. Gastric ulcers are relatively common in the UK, with around one in 10 people in England suffering the condition at some point in their lives. Anyone can get a duodenal ulcer, but it is more prevalent amongst people over the age of 60 years.

What causes a duodenal ulcer?

Ulcers do not normally develop because there is a layer of mucous that lines the wall of the duodenum. This protects it against the acid inside the intestine. If this mucous is disrupted in any way, the acid will come into contact with the wall of the duodenum, causing the membrane to burn away until an open sore occurs.

A duodenal ulcer will therefore be caused by anything that disrupts the mucous inside the intestine. There are two main ways in which the protective layer of mucous can be broken down: the H. pylori bacteria and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

1. H. pylori bacteria

If the helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria get into the intestine, it can damage the lining of the duodenum, disrupting the layer of mucous. Anyone can suffer a H. pylori infection, although they may not be aware of the illness as it can be asymptomatic. H. pylori infections appear to be more common amongst smokers. It can also run in families, making some people genetically predisposed to getting such infections.

2. NSAIDs

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) include medication such as ibuprofen, aspirin and diclofenac. It is a frequently used treatment that can be used for a wide variety of conditions such as arthritis, toothache, fever and cardiovascular disease. NSAIDs can upset the natural balance inside the gut, thinning the layer of mucous and leaving the wall exposed to the acid.

What are the symptoms of a duodenal ulcer?

The primary symptom of a duodenal ulcer is pain in the middle of the abdomen. This may spread across the tummy all the way to the neck, back and belly-button. The pain will often be worse a couple of hours after eating. The pain may alleviate slightly when eating more food or when taking medication to aid indigestion. There may also be other symptoms such as indigestion and heartburn.

Some people with a duodenal ulcer will not experience any symptoms and so will not seek any medical help. This can be dangerous as the ulcer will become worse. Suddenly severe symptoms will arise, such as vomiting blood and black stools.

How is a duodenal ulcer diagnosed?

A duodenal ulcer can be diagnosed upon the symptoms alone. A diagnosis will be particularly straightforward if the patient is taking NSAIDs, as the medication is known to be associated with duodenal ulcers.

If the patient is not taking NSAIDs, tests can be done to check for signs of the H. pylori infection. This can be achieved with a blood test, stool antigen test or a urea breath test.

If there is any doubt, a patient may be asked to undergo an endoscopy. This involves inserting a thin, flexible tube with a camera and light attached to the end of it. The camera relays images back to a monitor, allowing medical practitioners to see inside the intestine.

How do you treat a duodenal ulcer?

The course of treatment will depend upon the underlying cause of the duodenal ulcer. If an infection is to blame, a course of antibiotics will be prescribed. If NSAIDs are the cause, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) or H2-receptor antagonists will be prescribed. The patient's future use of NSAIDs will also need to be reviewed as he/she will be vulnerable to getting further duodenal ulcers.

Whatever the underlying cause, the treatment can take some time to take effect. In the meantime, a patient may want to take symptom-relieving medication such as antacids.

What happens if a duodenal ulcer is not treated?

If a duodenal ulcer is not treated, it can lead to very serious complications such as internal bleeding and the perforation of the duodenum. Both are potentially life-threatening conditions. A perforation is especially problematic as it the bacteria that live inside the gut will be released into the abdominal cavity. This in turn will cause an infection called peritonitis, which can quickly lead to widespread sepsis and multi-system organ failure.

Why would a duodenal ulcer be left untreated?

But why would a duodenal ulcer be left untreated? In some cases this happens because the patient did not experience any symptoms of a duodenal ulcer and so did not seek medical help. The ulcer will become increasingly worse until the patient suddenly experiences severe symptoms. The ulcer will then be treated, but it will already have advanced to the later stages.

In other cases a patient will visit their GP complaining of symptoms consistent with a duodenal ulcer, but a diagnosis is not made. This might happen because the doctor mistakes the ulcer for a different condition, decides that investigations are not necessary, or fails to repeat tests when a patient's symptoms do not go away.

Am I the victim of medical negligence?

If a duodenal ulcer is not treated because medical practitioners (either at a GP surgery or in hospital) failed to diagnose a duodenal ulcer, the standard of care will be considered unacceptable. If this causes a patient harm for example, a perforated ulcer there will be a case of medical negligence.

Who do I talk to about medical negligence claims?

To find out if you can make a medical negligence claim, you need to talk to a solicitor who specialises in medical negligence (also called clinical negligence). It does not necessarily have to be someone local to your area.

Where can I get free legal advice?

At Glynns Solicitors will offer free legal advice to anyone interested in making a medical negligence claim. To talk to a solicitor today, please get in touch.

Can We Help You With A Medical Negligence Enquiry?

Early legal assistance can be vital so please contact us if you would like to discuss your situation. Please call us free on 0800 234 3300 (or from a mobile 01275 334030) or complete our Online Enquiry Form.

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