Does Stress Cause Ulcers?

Last Editorial Review: 7/12/2017

Ask the experts

What role does stress play in the formation of ulcers?

Doctor's response

Peptic ulcers (occurring in the lining of the stomach or the part of the small intestine called the duodenum) were formerly thought to be caused by lifestyle stress, coffee consumption, or spicy foods. But it is now known that about 90% of peptic ulcers are actually caused by a bacterial infection that can usually be cured.

The bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) was established as the leading cause of peptic ulcers in the early 1980s. It was also found to cause gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining). Some people can be infected with H. pylori and never develop an ulcer or show any symptoms of the infection. In other people, the organism may persist for years before any symptoms develop. It is not known why some people develop symptoms of the infection and others do not. Treatment of H. pylori infection is relatively simple and can lead to healing in a matter of weeks.

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Medically reviewed by Robert Bargar, MD; Board Certification in Public Health & General Preventive Medicine


"Peptic ulcer disease: Genetic, environmental, and psychological risk factors and pathogenesis"