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A peptic ulcer is a sore on the lining of your stomach or the first part of your small intestine (duodenum). If the ulcer is in your stomach, it is called a gastric ulcer. If the ulcer is in your duodenum, it is called a duodenal ulcer.
Ulcers are fairly common.
In the past, experts thought lifestyle factors such as stress and diet caused ulcers. Today we know that stomach acids and other digestive juices help create ulcers. These fluids burn the linings of your organs.
Causes of peptic ulcers include:
Each person’s symptoms may vary. In some cases ulcers don’t cause any symptoms.
The most common ulcer symptom is a dull or burning pain in your belly between your breastbone and your belly button (navel). This pain often occurs around meal times and may wake you up at night. It can last from a few minutes to a few hours.
Less common ulcer symptoms may include:
Peptic ulcer symptoms may look like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider to be sure.
Your healthcare provider will look at your past health and give you a physical exam. You may also have some tests.
Imaging tests used to diagnose ulcers include:
You may also have the following lab tests to see if you have an H. pylori infection:
Treatment will depend on the type of ulcer you have. Your healthcare provider will create a care plan for you based on what is causing your ulcer.
Treatment can include making lifestyle changes, taking medicines, or in some cases having surgery.
Lifestyle changes may include:
Medicines to treat ulcers may include:
In most cases, medicines can heal ulcers quickly. Once the H. pylori bacteria is removed, most ulcers do not come back.
In rare cases, surgery may be needed if medicines don’t help. You may also need surgery if your ulcer causes other medical problems.
Ulcers can cause serious problems if you don’t get treatment.
The most common problems include:
See your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these symptoms:
Untreated peptic ulcers may cause other health problems. Sometimes they bleed. If they become too deep, they can break through your stomach.
Ulcers can also keep food from going through your stomach.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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