An ulcer is an inflammatory lesion due to the corrosive action of gastric juices. It may be due to chronic gastritis and fungal abuse, but also from stress and smoking.
The common symptom of an ulcer is a pain, located below the sternum. In the duodenal ulcer, the pain usually appears in the interval between meals when the stomach is empty and is relieved by ingestion of food. Gastric ulcer causes less painful symptomatology, which in some cases is somewhat exacerbated by eating.
Nausea and vomiting may also be present. The ulcer symptoms tend to occur for periods ranging from one to two months, especially in spring and autumn.
An ulcer is a lesion found on the inner surface of the stomach (gastric ulcer) or duodenum (duodenal ulcer).
The leading causes of this disorder are:
- Chronic gastritis
- Hyper-production of acidic gastric juices
- The action of drugs (especially aspirin, NSAIDs, and corticosteroids)
Exams that confirm what the symptoms show are gastroscopy (which allows the observation of the inner surface of the stomach and, if necessary, the execution of a biopsy) and the radiographic examination with contrast medium (barium meal).
As for Helicobacter infection, it is diagnosed by the detection of specific antibodies in the blood or with the search for the bacterium in an ulcerative lesion with biopsy.
Currently, there are many drugs that can be used for ulcer disease. Some of the most important are the following:
- Antacids: administered one hour after meals, and are useful for pain relief. Aluminum hydroxide and magnesium hydroxide are used.
- Antagonists of H2 receptors: among them are cimetidine, ranitidine or famotidine, and its action is based on the inhibition of acid secretion.
- Mucosal protective agents: sucralfate is used one hour before meals and at bedtime. Colloidal bismuth also belongs to this group.
- Synthetic prostaglandins: Enprostil and misoprostol; they stand out above all in the prevention of ulcers associated with NSAIDs consumption.
- Proton pump inhibitors: These are the most potent and highly used antisecretory acid. This group includes omeprazole, lansoprazole, pantoprazole, and rabeprazole, and should be administered 30 minutes before meals.