Chugai also works in the field of Gastroenterology and focuses on treatments used for the healing of ulcers in the stomach and intestine (peptic ulcers) as well as treating chronic inflammation of the stomach (gastritis).

What is an ulcer?

An ulcer is damage to the inner lining (the mucosa) of the stomach or the upper part of the intestine (duodenum). A bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, is the main cause of ulcers in this area.

Why do people get ulcers?

The most common cause is infection with Helicobacter pylori and this is responsible for up to 90 per cent of all cases of peptic ulceration. The second most common cause is damage inflicted by aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used by many for rheumatism, backache and period pain.

Ulcers can also occur in people weakened by severe disease (such as chronic respiratory disease or major trauma). This is thought to result from poor oxygenation to the lining of the stomach.

Occasionally, a stomach ulcer is caused by cancer and rarely, some other specific illness is found to be responsible. Such conditions include:

  • excessive production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach (Zollinger-Ellison syndrome)
  • Crohn's disease (an inflammatory condition affecting any part of the gut)

What does an ulcer feel like?

This varies greatly from person to person. Many people never realise that they have an ulcer. Others feel pain or a burning sensation in their upper abdomen.

The symptoms are often described as indigestion, heartburn, hunger pangs or dyspepsia. Some sufferers find that eating actually helps settle their discomfort for a while, others find it makes them worse. Citrus drinks, spicy and smoked foods can make the pain worse.

Finally, it is important to stress that most people with a stomach ache do not have ulcers.

An ulcer is potentially dangerous - the warning signs are:

  • difficulty swallowing or regurgitation
  • persistent nausea and vomiting
  • vomiting blood or vomit with the appearance of coffee grounds
  • black or tar-like stools
  • unintended weight loss
  • anaemia (paleness and fatigue)
  • sudden, severe and incapacitating abdominal pains