Peptic Ulcer: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

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A peptic ulcer is a disease wherein painful sores or ulcers occur in the stomach lining or the duodenum, leading to a burning pain in the stomach.

A peptic ulcer is a disease wherein painful sores or ulcers occur in the stomach lining (gastric ulcers). However, it may also develop in the oesophagus (oesophageal ulcers) or the duodenum (duodenal ulcers), or the first part of the small intestine. It is commonly caused by Helicobacter pylori bacterium, one of the most frequent causes of infection and inflammation in the gastrointestinal system. The most common symptom of peptic ulcer is a painful, burning sensation in the stomach. Although peptic ulcers can go away on its own, it still necessary to seek medical attention and treatment to prevent complications from ensuing. Complications may include bleeding, gastrointestinal perforation and gastric outlet obstruction.

Peptic Ulcer
Peptic Ulcer’s can present very serious stomach pain.

Causes of Peptic Ulcer

There is no one single cause that results to ulcers, however it is associated with imbalance between digestive fluids in the stomach and the duodenum. The following may lead to break down of the oesophagus, stomach and small intestine:

  • Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori)
  • Long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, among others
  • Excessive acid production from gastrinomas
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Stomach cancer
  • Radiation therapy

Symptoms of Peptic Ulcer

As previously mentioned, the most common symptom of peptic ulcer is a painful, burning sensation in the stomach, specifically in the upper or middle. This pain commonly occurs in between meals or during the night. It may last from minutes to hours and be recurring for several days or weeks. However, it should be noted that not all cases of peptic ulcer may show symptoms. Other possible signs and symptoms of peptic ulcer are the following:

  • Heartburn
  • Chest pain
  • Change in appetite
  • Bloating
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • In extreme cases, the following symptoms may be present:
    • Vomiting blood
    • Black or dark stool
    • Unintentional weight loss
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Treatment for Peptic Ulcer

Treatment will include eliminating the substance-causing ulcer in the system. Some of the following may be used in treating ulcer:

  • In some cases, peptic ulcer can stop temporarily by taking antacids to decrease stomach acid and ulcer pain
  • Ulcer medications may include proton pump inhibitors and antibiotics
  • In some cases, upper endoscopy and/ or surgery may be required.

Prevention of Peptic Ulcer

Changing lifestyle habits may decrease an individual’s chance of developing peptic ulcers. Some of these lifestyle choices include:

  • Stop smoking and other tobacco use
  • Limit drinking alcohol to not more than two beverages a day.
  • Do not mix medications with drinking alcohol.
  • Avoid taking too much of NSAIDs.
  • Eat a healthy diet that is rich in fruits, vegetable and whole grains
  • Frequently wash hands to avoid infections.

Disclaimer: This article does not provide medical advice and should not be substituted for formal first aid training. The information given should not be used for self-diagnosis. Seek medical attention when necessary. It is important to recognise potential medical emergencies at all times to avoid complications from developing. To learn more about to how to recognise signs and symptoms and manage peptic ulcers and other medical diseases, enrol in basic or advanced first aid and CPR training with a credible North American Provider.


Higuera, Valencia. (2012, August 15). Peptic Ulcer. Healthline. Retrieved on October 18, 2013, from

Seibert, Andrew. (2012, September 19).  WebMD. Retrieved on October 18, 2013, from


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