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Peptic Ulcers (Stomach and Duodenal Ulcers)

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Definition & Facts

A peptic ulcer, or stomach or duodenal ulcer, is a sore on the lining of your stomach or duodenum. Peptic ulcers can lead to complications such as bleeding, perforation, penetration, or blockage in your stomach or duodenum.

Woman clutching her stomach.

Symptoms & Causes

Common symptoms of peptic ulcers include pain or discomfort in your abdomen, feeling full too soon during or too full after a meal, nausea, bloating, and belching. The most common causes of peptic ulcers are Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Diagnosis

Your doctor may ask about your medical and family history, perform a physical exam, and order tests to diagnose a peptic ulcer, find its cause, and check for complications. Doctors may order tests to check for Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection, upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy, and upper GI series.

Treatment

Doctors may recommend medicines to heal peptic ulcers and will look for and treat the underlying cause. Doctors treat Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection with medicines. If you have a peptic ulcer due to taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), your doctor may change your medicines.

Eating, Diet, & Nutrition

Researchers have not found that diet and nutrition play an important role in causing, preventing, or treating peptic ulcers. Doctors do not recommend following a special diet or avoiding specific foods or drinks to treat or prevent ulcers.

Clinical Trials

The NIDDK conducts and supports clinical trials in many diseases and conditions, including digestive diseases. The trials look to find new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease and improve quality of life.

Your Digestive System & How It Works

The digestive system is made up of the GI tract—also called the digestive tract—and the liver, pancreas, and the gallbladder. The GI tract is a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus.

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Richard M. Peek, Jr., M.D., Vanderbilt University Medical Center