A peptic ulcer is a sore in the lining of the stomach or the first part of the small intestine. This area of the small intestine is called the duodenum. Peptic ulcers may be named by their location:
Upsets in the balance of stomach acid and digestive juices can lead to an ulcer. This can be caused by:
Less common causes include:
Factors that may increase your chance of peptic ulcer include:
Peptic ulcers do not always cause symptoms. Symptoms may come and go. Food or fluids sometimes make symptoms better. Having an empty stomach may make symptoms worse. However, symptoms can occur at any time.
Symptoms may include:
Ulcers can cause serious problems and severe abdominal pain. One problem is bleeding. Bleeding symptoms may include:
A perforated ulcer is a break through the wall of the stomach or duodenum. It causes sudden and severe pain.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests may include:
Talk to your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options may include one or more of the following:
Your doctor may recommend:
You and your doctor will discuss lifestyle changes. In general:
Surgery and/or endoscopy may be recommended for:
This may be done to stop bleeding. A thin, lighted tube is inserted down the throat into the stomach or intestine. Heat, electricity, epinephrine, or a substance called fibrin glue can then be applied to the area. This should stop the blood flow.
Surgery for peptic ulcers is rare, but it can greatly reduce acid production. Common procedures include:
To help reduce your chance of H. pylori infection:
To help reduce your chance of a peptic ulcer from NSAIDs:
American College of Gastroenterology
American Gastroenterological Association
Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Meurer LN, Bower DJ. Management of helicobacter pylori infection. Am Fam Physician. 2002;65(7):1327-1336.
Peptic ulcer disease. American College of Gastroenterology website. Available at: http://patients.gi.org/topics/peptic-ulcer-disease. Accessed April 29, 2013.
Peptic ulcer disease. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116374/Peptic-ulcer-disease. Updated May 11, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2016.
Peptic ulcers and H. pylori. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/peptic-ulcer/Documents/hpylori_508.pdf. Updated April 30, 2012. Accessed April 29, 2013.
Understanding peptic ulcer disease. American Gastroenterological Association website. Available at: http://www.gastro.org/info_for_patients/2013/6/6/understanding-peptic-ulcer-disease. Accessed April 29, 2013.
Last reviewed March 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review BoardDaus Mahnke, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.