Peptic ulcer

Peptic ulcers are open sores that develop on the inside lining of your esophagus, stomach and the upper portion of your small intestine. The most common symptom of a peptic ulcer is abdominal pain.

Peptic ulcers include:

  • Gastric ulcers that occur on the inside of the stomach
  • Esophageal ulcers that occur inside the hollow tube (esophagus) that carries food from your throat to your stomach
  • Duodenal ulcers that occur on the inside of the upper portion of your small intestine (duodenum)

It's a myth that spicy foods or a stressful job can cause peptic ulcers. Doctors now know that a bacterial infection or some medications — not stress or diet — cause most peptic ulcers.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Pain is the most common symptom

Burning pain is the most common peptic ulcer symptom. The pain is caused by the ulcer and is aggravated by stomach acid coming in contact with the ulcerated area. The pain typically may:

  • Be felt anywhere from your navel up to your breastbone
  • Be worse when your stomach is empty
  • Flare at night
  • Often be temporarily relieved by eating certain foods that buffer stomach acid or by taking an acid-reducing medication
  • Disappear and then return for a few days or weeks

Other signs and symptoms

Less often, ulcers may cause severe signs or symptoms such as:

  • The vomiting of blood — which may appear red or black
  • Dark blood in stools or stools that are black or tarry
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Appetite changes

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if you have persistent signs and symptoms that worry you. Over-the-counter antacids and acid blockers may relieve the gnawing pain, but the relief is short-lived. If your pain persists, see your doctor.

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