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Peptic Ulcer Disease

Written by Ada’s Medical Knowledge Team

Updated on

What is Peptic Ulcer Disease?

Peptic ulcer disease, also know as stomach ulcers or gastric ulcers, is a condition with an open sore or ulcer in the lining of the stomach or duodenum, the first part of the small intestine. The main symptom is burning pain in the upper part of the belly after meals. Other symptoms are heartburn, burping, bloating and nausea. The symptoms of a peptic ulcer usually worsen over time.

Peptic ulcers can lead to bleeding, a hole in the bowel (called a perforation) and other medical emergencies. These complications may cause symptoms which start suddenly. The treatment of peptic ulcer disease depends on the cause. Once the cause is recognized and treated, the outlook is usually good.

Risks for stomac ulcers

Peptic ulcer disease is more common in older people. Many cases are caused by an infection with a bacterial called Helicobacter pylori. Other causes of peptic ulcers are the use of anti-inflammatory medications (such as aspirin), and smoking. Other conditions and medications can cause peptic ulcer disease, but these are comparatively uncommon.

Peptic ulcer disease symptoms

Typical stomach ulcer symptoms include:

  • pain at the top of the belly
  • heartburn
  • indigestion (burping and bloating)
  • and nausea.

If the ulcer is bleeding, it might be possible to see fresh, red blood or old, black blood in the bowel movements. Bleeding may also be accompanied by tiredness and a lack of energy. If the ulcer causes a hole in the bowel, this can lead to a sudden pain in the belly, fever, nausea and collapse. This is a uncommon complication of this condition.

Diagnosing stomach ulcer

To diagnose a peptic ulcer, an endoscopy (a camera through the mouth to the stomach) is required. Other tests are done at the time of endoscopy which may determine the cause of the peptic ulcer. A Helicobacter pylori (bacteria) infection can be diagnosed by a urea breath test.


Antibiotics are prescribed to treat ulcers caused by a bacterial infection. If the ulcer is caused by a medication, your doctor can advise you about the risks and benefits of taking this medication in the future. Some medications are also helpful in reducing symptoms by reducing the amount of acid produced by the stomach. These are usually only required while the ulcer is healing. If the ulcer bleeds, or causes a hole in the intestine, emergency surgery might be required. This is a rare complication


Careful use of anti-inflammatory medicines (such as aspirin) is important in preventing peptic ulcers, especially in older people. Giving up or reducing smoking can be helpful in reducing symptoms and in preventing new ulcers.

Other names for Peptic Ulcer Disease

  • stomach ulcer
  • duodenal ulcer
  • gastric ulcer
  • gastroduodenal ulcer

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