Gastric ulcers : a disease treatable easily

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Particularly prevalent among the elderly, and the gastric ulcers can be treated easily. But still it is necessary to diagnose them in time !

Ulcère gastrique

What are gastric ulcers ?

The ulcers are among the diseases gastric the most common. They take the form of a wound or erosion sometimes deep in the wall of a body. The ulcers can affect the stomach or the duodenum (the initial segment of the small intestine), in which case it is called a ” duodenal ulcer “.

In industrialized countries, approximately 10 % of the population is likely to suffer from an ulcer of this type. People aged over 40 years, and in particular the seniors, however, are the most affected.

What are the causes of gastric ulcers ?

For the majority of them (60 to 80 %), gastric ulcers were caused by a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori. There are 4 risk factors :

  • tobacco ;
  • the abuse of alcohol ;
  • the stress ;
  • the consumption of certain drugs, aggressive to the stomach (aspirin, corticosteroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs type of ibuprofen) : in this case, the bacteria is not in question.

What are the symptoms of gastric ulcer ?

The main symptom of a gastric ulcer is pain. Focused generally in the hollow epigastric, sometimes under the chest or around the navel, it looks like a cramp or a burn, sometimes to strong feeling of hunger. The pain due to gastric ulcers wake up in addition almost always before meals. Nevertheless, the consumption of food, especially of dairy products, usually leads to appease the evil.

The pain, however, is not the only symptom. Other signs, less revealing, must alert :

  • the acid regurgitation ;
  • nausea and vomiting ;
  • the belching frequent ;
  • a difficulty to digest (dyspepsia) ;
  • loss of appetite and/or weight.

When the gastric ulcers bleed, they can also generate an emission of stools (black color due to the digestion of blood). In the elderly, this symptom may arise out of any other sign : you must then consult a doctor immediately.

How to diagnose a gastric ulcer ?

The reference method used for the screening of an ulcer of the stomach, is the fiberoptic endoscopy, or endoscopy of the stomach. This review invasive procedure that involves inserting a camera through the mouth to the stomach of the patient. It allows you to check also the esophagus and duodenum. The examination is performed under premedication (by ingestion of sedatives and analgesics) or under anesthesia (local or general).

During a fiberoptic endoscopy, the surgeon observes the appearance of gastric ulcer and can collect a piece of mucous membrane for further examination. It will search for the presence of the bacteria responsible, as well as the signs of a potential cancer is born.

What are the treatments for gastric ulcers ?

Drug treatment is usually sufficient to get rid of the gastric ulcers. It combines :

  • antibiotics to fight the bacteria ;
  • an antisecretory (antihistamines, H2 or inhibitors of the proton pump), to reduce the natural secretion of hydrochloric acid by the stomach and, thus, reduce the pain.

The symptoms disappear in a few days, with permanent cure in the great majority of cases.

Attention, however : in the absence of treatment, the gastric ulcers can lead to complications, such as vomiting of blood, of the emissions of black stools, perforation of the ulcer, a stricture, or a malignancy (very rare). The surgery is then required. It is therefore better to prevent than to cure, and detect the early signs !

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