Peptic ulcers (from the Greek word “peptikós”, meaning “digestive”) are lesions of the digestive canal which may interest the internal part (mucosa) of the stomach (gastric ulcers) or the upper part of the small intestine, the duodenum (duodenal ulcer). The aggression by digestive enzymes causes the wound; this occurs when the protective features of the mucous membrane are lost due to chronic inflammation or to the action of irritants. The most frequent cause is an infection cause by a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (Hp).
- Duodenal ulcer is the most common ulcer (65% of cases); it appears in younger subjects (it usually first appears in subjects aged between 30 and 50) and it is more common among men.
- Gastric ulcers are less frequent, they appear in older subjects (over 60) and are usually associated with atrophic chronic gastritis.
Do not mistake ulcers with gastritis, which is an inflammation of the stomach walls which can lead to ulceration over time.