Many agents seem to be equally effective for the treatment of peptic ulcer disease. This is true despite the drugs' varied mechanisms of action, and this observation has caused investigators to shift their focus from aggressive to defensive factors when studying ulcer pathogenesis. Patients with a healed ulcer are always at risk for recurrence, and guidelines are available for management of these patients. Ulcer prevention becomes a crucial issue in intensive care units where critically ill patients have many known risk factors. Maintaining a gastric pH above 4.0 appears to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with such stress-induced ulcers. Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs increases ulcer risk and complications in the elderly, in women with rheumatoid arthritis, and in smokers and abusers of alcohol. Prophylaxis with the synthetic prostaglandin analogue misoprostol (Cytotec) appears to reduce this risk.
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