In medicine, the expression ulcer indicates erosion that does not heal on its own and requires pharmacological treatment. Peptic ulcer, as explained by Professor Silvio Danese, Head of the Centre for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases at Humanitas, a guest in a study at Tutta Salute on Rai 3, is the ulcer of the high digestive tract and may typically affect the stomach (gastric ulcer) or duodenum (duodenal ulcer).

“It is estimated that about 4 million people have a peptic ulcer every year; gastric ulcer mainly affects people over 60 years of age, while duodenal ulcer affects younger people,” the professor explained.


What are the causes of a peptic ulcer?

“In the late 1990s, Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that nests in the stomach and can induce gastritis (i.e. inflammation), and which in some patients can lead to the formation of gastric or duodenal ulcer, was isolated. Helicobacter therefore induces an inflammatory reaction that only in some subjects will lead to the formation of the actual peptic ulcer. It should also be noted that not all Helicobacter types are the same; some are more pathogenic and therefore more harmful to the digestive system.

Other factors that may contribute to the condition include intake of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, smoking and alcohol. In the case of drugs, for example, the mucosa of the digestive system produces substances that create protection, as if they were an enamel; the taking of these drugs blocks the production of these substances and so the mucosa becomes more easily attacked,” emphasized prof. Danese.


Symptoms of a peptic ulcer

“Typically, the patient reports pain in the mouth of the stomach or laterally on the right. There are, however, some differences between gastric and duodenal ulcer; the pain is in fact different in relation to the intake of food: in gastric ulcer the pain worsens when eating, while in duodenal ulcer there is an improvement following the intake of food, sometimes this type of fasting ulcer can give a symptom similar to hunger, a pain that can occur during the night and improve after eating. There may then be non-specific and classical symptoms in digestive tract disorders, such as nausea, loss of appetite and vomiting,” explained prof. Danese.


Watch the full interview with professor Danese, from minute 11.28, click here.