Peptic ulcers are sores that develop in the lining of the stomach, lower esophagus, or small intestine. They’re usually formed as a result of inflammation caused by the bacteria H. pylori, as well as from erosion from stomach acids. Peptic ulcers are a fairly common health problem.
There are three types of peptic ulcers:
Gastric ulcers: ulcers that develop inside the stomach
Esophageal ulcers: ulcers that develop inside the esophagus
Duodenal ulcers: ulcers that develop in the upper section of the small intestines, called the duodenum
Symptoms of Peptic Ulcer
- Burning stomach pain
- Feeling of fullness, bloating or belching
- Intolerance to fatty foods
The most common peptic ulcer symptom is burning stomach pain. Stomach acid makes the pain worse, as does having an empty stomach. The pain can often be relieved by eating certain foods that buffer stomach acid or by taking an acid-reducing medication, but then it may come back. The pain may be worse between meals and at night.
Many people with peptic ulcers don’t even have symptoms.
Less often, ulcers may cause severe signs or symptoms such as:
- Vomiting or vomiting blood — which may appear red or black
- Dark blood in stools, or stools that are black or tarry
- Trouble breathing
- Feeling faint
- Nausea or vomiting
- Unexplained weight loss
- Appetite changes
Causes of peptic ulcers
Different factors can cause the lining of the stomach, the esophagus, and the small intestine to break down. These include:
- Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a type of bacteria that can cause a stomach infection and inflammation
- frequent use of aspirin (Bayer), ibuprofen (Advil), and other anti-inflammatory drugs (risk associated with this behavior increases in women and people over the age of 60)
- drinking too much alcohol
- radiation therapy
- stomach cancer
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if you have the severe signs or symptoms listed above. Also see your doctor if over-the-counter antacids and acid blockers relieve your pain but the pain returns.