There seems to be a worldwide geographic variation in the prevalence of peptic ulcer disease, although there are few reliable population based studies. This study aimed to determine the prevalence of peptic ulcer disease in a community in southern India and to evaluate the relationship between dyspeptic symptoms, Helicobacter pylori infection, gastritis, and peptic ulcer disease. A sample population was selected randomly from a rural monastic settlement in southern India. Subjects were interviewed using a standardised symptom and demography questionnaire then underwent upper endoscopy and antral biopsy for histology and CLO rapid urease test. Altogether 197 subjects from a population of 1499 (13.1%) were studied. All were male monks and ethnically Tibetan. The median age was 28 years (range: 21-81). None smoked or took NSAIDs. The six month period prevalence of dyspeptic symptoms was 68.5%. Current symptoms were present in 58.9% of subjects. Dyspepsia was more common in subjects aged 40 years or younger (p < 0.0001). H pylori was detected in 77.2% subjects. There was no association between dyspepsia and the presence of H pylori or histological gastritis, although there was a strong correlation between symptoms and ulcer (p < 0.003). The point prevalence of active peptic ulcer was 6.6% (13/197). All ulcers detected were either prepyloric or pyloroduodenal in location. A further 6.6% of subjects had definite evidence of scarring or deformity indicative of ulceration in the past. Subjects with past or present ulcers comprised 17.8% of dyspeptic subjects. H pylori was present in all subjects with active ulcers and in 12/13 of those with scarring. Dyspepsia, H pylori infection, gastritis, and peptic ulcer are all more common in this population than in those from developed countries. Ulcer disease, however, accounts for only a small proportion of subjects with symptoms and neither H pylori infection nor gastritis are significantly associated with the presence of dyspepsia.
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