Peptic Ulcer

Peptic Ulcers

Peptic ulcers are open sores that form in the lining of the esophagus, stomach, or small intestine. They are very common, affecting around 4 million people in the United States each year.

Causes of Peptic Ulcers

The most common cause of peptic ulcers is a bacterial infection called Helicobacter pylori. This bacteria can be spread through contact with infected saliva or feces. Other common causes include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or aspirin, alcohol, stress, smoking, and spicy foods.

Symptoms of Peptic Ulcers

Common symptoms of peptic ulcers include:

  • Abdominal pain, usually in the upper-middle part of your stomach
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Bloating

Diagnosis of Peptic Ulcers

Your doctor will diagnose a peptic ulcer by taking a medical history and conducting a physical exam. They may also order tests or procedures to confirm the diagnosis, such as:

  • Endoscopy – using a small camera to look at the lining of the stomach, esophagus, or small intestine
  • Upper gastrointestinal series – X-rays of the upper gastrointestinal tract
  • Breath test – checking for the presence of H. pylori bacteria in your breath
  • Blood test – checking for antibodies to H. pylori

Treatment of Peptic Ulcers

Treatment for peptic ulcers depends on the cause. For ulcers caused by an infection with H. pylori bacteria, the standard treatment is a combination of antibiotics and acid-suppressing medications such as proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) or histamine-2 receptor antagonists (H2RAs). Other treatments may include lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking or avoiding spicy foods.


Peptic ulcers are very common and can be caused by a variety of factors, from a bacterial infection to lifestyle choices. The symptoms of peptic ulcers are usually abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and weight loss. If you think you may have a peptic ulcer, it’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will perform tests to determine the cause of your ulcer and recommend an appropriate treatment plan.