A peptic ulceration is a lesion of the internal mucous membrane of the stomach or the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine. It’s the most common type of ulceration and it is generally caused by Helicobacter pylori. A bacterium that causes inflammations in the digestive tract.
Professor Silvio Danese, gastroenterologist, coordinator of the Humanitas Immuno Center, Supervisor of the Center for Chronic Inflammatory Bowel Disease at Humanitas and teacher at Humanitas University, spoke about peptic ulceration in an interview for the newspaper “Corriere della Sera”.

Peptic ulceration is the most common type of ulceration. The duodenal one may affect younger people, while gastric ulceration affects older people.

What are the Causes of Peptic Ulceration?

Helicobacter pylori have been discovered during the 1980s. A fact that has been paramount for the understanding of this disease. In fact, this bacterium is the main responsible for peptic ulcerations. Moreover, its presence is linked to gastritis and stomach cancer. This bacterium causes 70% of gastric ulcerations and more than 90% of duodenal ulcerations.
Instead, 5% of duodenal ulceration and 15-20% of gastric ulceration depends on the regular intake of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications.
In rare cases, one of the causes is Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, characterized by an excess production of gastric acids.

What are its Symptoms?

Pain and a burning sensation between your sternum and belly button are the main symptoms of peptic ulceration. In case of duodenal ulceration, you may experience these symptoms even on an empty stomach, while gastric ulceration only makes them evident after a meal. The duration of symptoms may vary between a few minutes and some hours, and you may also experience them during the night.
“Apart from the pain, you may also experience other symptoms such as dyspepsia (that is to say, difficulties in digesting food), nausea and early satiety. Less frequent symptoms are vomit, appetite loss, loss of weight, anaemia due to non-treated internal bleeding, the presence of hidden blood in your stool”, Professor Danese points out.

An Ulceration Diagnosis

In order to diagnose an ulceration, an infection is required. A serologic test, a breath test or a stool exam can detect the presence (or absence) of the bacterium. Gastroscopy, instead, is only useful in a few selected cases.

Endoscopy analyses fragment from the mucous membrane of the stomach or of the intestine, and it is reportedly the best tool to diagnose ulcerations.

The Pharmacological Therapy

Helicobacter pylori may only be eliminated with an antibiotic therapy. Other useful medications are inhibitors of the gastric acid secretion, proton pump inhibitors and gastric mucous membrane protectors.

Medications blocking the production of acids reduce their release in the digestive tract, promoting the healing of the ulceration, while proton pump inhibitors alleviate symptoms and reduce stomach ache.

The role of Alimentation and Lifestyle

During the therapy, you should eat healthily.

  • Eat great quantities of fruit, vegetables (such as apples, carrots, green-leaved vegetables), legumes, fish, white meat, all-bran cereals.
  • Yogurt with probiotics and ripened cheese are better than milk because milk increases the production of gastric acids.
  • Pay also attention to too-salty, seasoned or spiced dishes, or fatty foods, because they may make the pain more intense and the digestive process slower.
  • You should quit smoking, reduce your coffee intake and avoid alcohol. Smokers risk developing peptic ulcerations or having a relapse.
  • Moreover, it’s important not to eat before going to bed and to try to avoid stressful activities as much as possible after the diagnosis.

There is no evidence anxiety and stress cause this ailment, but stress can indeed worsen its symptoms.