Peptic Ulcer

A peptic ulcer is an open sore that develops on the inside lining of your esophagus, stomach or the upper portion of your small intestine (called duodenum). There are several peptic ulcer symptoms, but the most common is abdominal pain.

Peptic Ulcer: What You Need to Know

Prevention

You can lower your risk of developing a peptic ulcer:

  • Protect yourself from infections:
    • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water
    • Eat foods that have been cooked completely
  • Take pain relievers cautiously:
    • Take the medication with food
    • Do not take the medication with alcohol
    • Take the lowest dose possible that still gives you relief
    • Talk to your doctor about switching to acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Quit smoking – Fletcher Allen offers a quit smoking program
  • Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all
  • Control stress

Teamwork

A peptic ulcer is best managed by a group of specialists that includes gastroenterologists, pathologists and radiologists. Our physicians and other support staff work together as a team, providing expert care.

Experienced, Trusted Expertise

Fletcher Allen's Gastroenterology and Hepatology Outpatient Clinic is managed by six board certified subspecialists. We perform more than 9,000 various diagnostic and therapeutic endoscopic procedures every year.

What is a Peptic Ulcer?

A peptic ulcer that forms inside your stomach is called a gastric ulcer. A peptic ulcer that occurs inside the thin tube that connects the back of the throat to the stomach (esophagus) is called an esophageal ulcer. A peptic ulcer that affects the inside of the upper portion of your small intestine (duodenum) is called a duodenal ulcer.

A peptic ulcer is not caused by spicy foods or stress. However, stress can aggravate your peptic ulcer symptoms.

The most common peptic ulcer symptom is burning, a type of abdominal pain caused when stomach acid comes into contact with the ulcer.

Peptic ulcer symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain that may:
    • Feel worse when your stomach is empty
    • Feel worse at night
    • Be temporarily relieved by eating certain foods that buffer stomach acid or by taking an antacid such as calciumcarbonate
    • Disappear and return
  • Vomiting red or black-looking blood
  • Dark blood in stools
  • Black, tarry stools
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Appetite changes

There are several reasons why you could develop a peptic ulcer. Risk factors can increase your risk of developing them, including:

  • Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacterial infection: H. pylori bacteria can disrupt the mucous layer and inflame the lining of your stomach or duodenum
  • Pain relievers: Regular use of certain pain relievers can irritate the lining of your stomach and small intestine, such as:
    • Aspirin
    • Ibuprofen (for example: Advil, Motrin and others)
    • Naproxen (for example: Aleve, Anaprox and others)
    • Ketoprofen
  • Prescription medications to treat osteoporosis: Bisphosphonates (for example: Actonel, Fosamax and others)
  • Smoking: May increase the risk of peptic ulcers in people who are infected with H. pylori. Fletcher Allen offers a quit smoking program
  • Drinking alcohol: Alcohol can irritate and wear away the mucous lining of your stomach, and it increases stomach acid production
  • Uncontrolled stress: Although stress alone doesn't cause a peptic ulcer, it's a contributing factor

Diagnosis and Treatment: Peptic Ulcer

Learn more about peptic ulcer diagnosis and treatment.

Find a Fletcher Allen physician or call 802-847-8865.