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Peptic Ulcer

Also called: Duodenal ulcer, Gastric ulcer, Stomach ulcer, Ulcer

Summary

A peptic ulcer is a sore in the lining of your stomach or your duodenum, the first part of your small intestine. A burning stomach pain is the most common symptom. The pain

  • Starts between meals or during the night
  • Briefly stops if you eat or take antacids
  • Lasts for minutes to hours
  • Comes and goes for several days or weeks

Peptic ulcers happen when the acids that help you digest food damage the walls of the stomach or duodenum. The most common cause is infection with a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori. Another cause is the long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Stress and spicy foods do not cause ulcers, but can make them worse.

To see if you have an H. pylori infection, your doctor will test your blood, breath, or stool. Your doctor also may look inside your stomach and duodenum by doing an endoscopy or x-ray.

Peptic ulcers will get worse if not treated. Treatment may include medicines to reduce stomach acids or antibiotics to kill H. pylori. Antacids and milk can't heal peptic ulcers. Not smoking and avoiding alcohol can help. You may need surgery if your ulcers don't heal.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Start Here

  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)
  • (American College of Gastroenterology)
  • (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in
  • (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in

Symptoms

Diagnosis and Tests

  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)
  • Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) From the National Institutes of Health (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
  • (American Association for Clinical Chemistry)
  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases) Also in
  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases) Also in

Treatments and Therapies

  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)

Related Issues

  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Cancer Institute) Also in

Specifics

  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)

Videos and Tutorials

Striking laughter

  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institutes of Health)
  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institutes of Health)
  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institutes of Health)

Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)

Find an Expert

  • (American College of Gastroenterology)
  • From the National Institutes of Health

Children

  • (Nemours Foundation)
  • (Nemours Foundation)

Teenagers

  • (Nemours Foundation)

Patient Handouts