Peptic Ulcer Disease (Stomach Ulcer)

  • Medical Author:
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: Bhupinder Anand, MD
woman with abdominal pain

Bleeding Ulcers: Symptoms and Causes

Bleeding ulcers are a big deal. Often having endoscopy is diagnostic and therapeutic. A gastroenterologist can use a fiberoptic camera to view the inside of the stomach and duodenum, searching for a source of bleeding.

Symptoms of a bleeding ulcer include:

  • Indigestion
  • Abdominal discomfort after eating
  • Upper abdominal burning or hunger pain 1 to 3 hours after eating or in the middle of the night

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Peptic ulcer (stomach, duodenum) definition and facts

  • Peptic ulcer (stomach, duodenum) are sores in the lining of the stomach or duodenum.
  • Peptic ulcer formation is related to H. pylori bacteria in the stomach and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) in 50% of patients. For the remaining 50% there are miscellaneous causes such as drugs, lifestyle factors (smoking), severe physiological stress, and genetic factors; or the cause is unknown.
  • Ulcer pain may not correlate with the presence or severity of ulceration.
  • The main symptom of a stomach or duodenal ulcer is upper abdominal pain which can be dull, sharp, or burning (a hunger-like feeling). (Bloating and burping are not symptoms of peptic ulcer, and vomiting, poor appetite, and nausea are uncommon symptoms of peptic ulcer.) Other symptoms may include:
  • Diagnosis of an ulcer can be made with an upper GI series or endoscopy.
  • Treatment of stomach or duodenal ulcers is to relieve pain, heal the ulcer, and prevent complications. Medical treatment involves antibiotic combinations along with stomach acid suppression medication, for example, antacids, proton pump inhibitors (PPIS), or H2 blockers to eradicate H. pylori, or eliminate precipitating factors such as NSAIDs and stomach acid suppression with medications alone.
  • Complications of duodenal or stomach ulcers include bleeding, perforation, and blockage of the stomach (gastric obstruction).
  • If a person with peptic ulcers smokes or take NSAIDs, the ulcers may recur after treatment.

What is a peptic ulcer?

A peptic ulcer (stomach or duodenal) is a break in the inner lining of the esophagus, stomach, or duodenum. A peptic ulcer of the stomach is called a gastric ulcer; of the duodenum, a duodenal ulcer; and of the esophagus, an esophageal ulcer. Peptic ulcers occur when the lining of these organs is corroded by the acidic digestive (peptic) juices which are secreted by the cells of the stomach. A peptic ulcer differs from an erosion because it extends deeper into the lining of the esophagus, stomach, or duodenum and incites more of an inflammatory reaction from the tissues that are involved. Peptic ulcer also is referred to as peptic ulcer disease.

Peptic ulcer disease is common, affecting millions of Americans yearly. Moreover, peptic ulcers are a recurrent problem; even healed ulcers can recur unless treatment is directed at preventing their recurrence. The medical cost of treating peptic ulcer and its complications runs into billions of dollars annually. Recent medical advances have increased our understanding of ulcer formation. Improved and expanded treatment options now are available.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/3/2016

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