peptic ulcer is a sore in the inner lining of the stomach or upper small
Ulcers form when the intestine or stomach's protective
layer is broken down. When this happens, digestive juices—which contain hydrochloric
acid and an
enzyme called pepsin—can damage the
intestine or stomach tissue.
Treatment cures most ulcers. And symptoms usually go away
Peptic ulcers that form in the stomach are called
gastric ulcers. Those that form in the upper small intestine are called
duodenal (say "doo-uh-DEE-nul" or "doo-AW-duh-nul") ulcers.
The two most common
causes of peptic ulcers are:
H. pylori and NSAIDs break down
the stomach or intestine's protective mucus layer.
- A burning, aching, or gnawing pain between the
belly button (navel) and the breastbone. Some people also have back pain. The
pain can last from a few minutes to a few hours and may come and go for
- Pain that usually goes away for a while after you take an
antacid or acid reducer.
- Loss of appetite and weight
- Bloating or nausea after eating.
- Vomiting blood or material that looks like coffee
- Passing black stools that look like tar, or stools that contain dark red blood.
Different people have different symptoms, and some people
have no symptoms at all.
Your doctor will
ask you questions about your symptoms and your general health, and he or she
will do a physical exam.
your symptoms aren't severe and you are younger than 55, your doctor may do
some simple tests (using your blood, breath, or stool) to look for signs of
H. pylori infection.
The only way for you
and your doctor to know for sure if you have an ulcer is to do a more
complicated test, called an
endoscopy, to look for an ulcer and to test for
H. pylori infection. An endoscopy allows the doctor to
look inside your esophagus, stomach, and small intestine. An endoscopy is
usually done by a
gastroenterologist, a doctor who specializes in
To treat peptic ulcers, most
people need to take medicines that reduce the amount of acid in the stomach. If
you have an H. pylori infection, you will also need to
help speed the healing of your ulcer and prevent it from coming back if you
quit smoking and limit alcohol. Continued use of medicines such as aspirin,
ibuprofen, or naproxen may increase the chance of your ulcer coming
Ignoring symptoms of an ulcer is not a good idea. This
condition needs to be treated. While symptoms can go away for a short time, you
may still have an ulcer. Left untreated, an ulcer can cause life-threatening
problems. Even with treatment, some ulcers may come back and may need more