About This Condition
Peptic ulcers are erosions or open sores in the mucous lining of the stomach or duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). The term “peptic” distinguishes peptic ulcers from ulcerations that affect other parts of the body (e.g., diabetic leg ulcers).
Peptic ulcer should never be treated without proper diagnosis. They are usually caused by infection from Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). People with peptic ulcer due to infection should discuss conventional treatment directed toward eradicating the organism—various combinations of antibiotics, acid blockers, and bismuth—with a medical doctor. Ulcers can also be caused or aggravated by stress, alcohol, smoking, and dietary factors.
Peptic ulcers are occasionally painless. However, the most common symptom is a dull ache in the upper abdomen that usually occurs two to three hours after a meal; the ache is relieved by eating. Other common symptoms include weight loss, bloating, belching, and nausea. Untreated, peptic ulcers often bleed and may cause sharp burning pain in the area of the stomach or just below it.