Peptic Ulcer

What is a Peptic Ulcer?

Peptic Ulcer occur when the stomach lining develops open sores. They can appear in the small intestine, too, especially in the upper area.  There are two kinds of peptic ulcers – gastric and duodenal. Duodenal ulcers are found in the upper area of the duodenum or the small intestine.  Gastric ulcers are the ones that appear in the stomach.

Peptic ulcers can come from a bacterial infection of Helicobacter pylori (also called H. pylori).  Peptic ulcers have also been known to result from the over use of over-the-counter painkillers like Aspirin and ibuprofen.  Contrary to belief, stress does not cause peptic ulcers, although it can aggravate them and make symptoms worse.

What are the Symptoms of a Peptic Ulcer?

One of the first things you may notice if you have a peptic ulcer is burning pain in your stomach. You may find that is worse when you have not eaten. Late nights and early morning before you have eaten is often the worst times. You may also find that fatty foods make the pain worse. Nausea, heartburn, and feeling bloated are other common symptoms.

Less common symptoms include blood in stool (or black stool) or in vomit, faintness, difficulty breathing, and changes in appetite.

How is a Peptic Ulcer Treated?

The treatment of a peptic ulcer will depend on what the cause of the ulcer is. If the cause is too much pain killing medication, treatment would involve decreasing or eliminating use of the medication. If the cause is the H. pylori bacterium, the treatment would be focused on eliminating it.

Medications are often prescribed to treat peptic ulcers. This can include antibiotics like clarithromycin, tindazole, levofloxacin, tetracycline, metronidazole, or amoxicillin. Doctors usually start with a course of medication for two weeks. Doctors may also prescribe proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) to promote healing and to block further acid production. This can be prescription or over-the-counter medications like Prilosec, Nexium, Protonix, or Prevacid.

Acid blockers (histamine blockers) are another common way of treating peptic ulcers. Zantac, Tagamet HB, and Pepcid are some of the most common acid blockers. Antacids may also be suggested to provide quick pain relief, although they will not heal an ulcer.

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Last Reviewed:
September 14, 2016
Last Updated:
August 24, 2017