Peptic ulcer: Causes, Picture, Symptoms and Treatment

Peptic ulcer refer to the open sores inside your digestive tract. It usually develops inside the lining of the stomach as well as the upper portion of the small intestine. The main symptom is severe stomach pain. Excruciating pain can pull you back from achieving the full potential. So, it can affect your personal and professional life. In normal cases, a thick layer of mucus protects the stomach lining. So, the lining protects your stomach and small intestine from the harsh effects of the digestive juices. It results in the development of open sores.

Understanding Peptic Ulcer

A peptic ulcer is formed as a result of inflammation caused in the stomach and small intestine linings. It is the common health problem occurring in the majority of people. The erosion from stomach acids or infection due to H. pylori can result in the condition. The open sores can develop in three places like:

Gastric Ulcers

Gastric Ulcers

Due to the condition, open sores develop on the inside of the stomach.

Esophageal Ulcers

As the name suggests, the open sores develop inside the esophagus.

Duodenal Ulcers

Duodenal Ulcers

The ulcers develop on the duodenum. The sores develop on the inside of the small intestine. In most cases, it occurs in the upper portion of the small intestine.

Symptoms Associated With Peptic Ulcer

When you suffer from open sores in the upper portion of your small intestine or inside the lining of the stomach, it can trigger several signs. The common signs associated with the condition are:

  • Nausea
  • Burning pain in your stomach
  • Feeling full
  • Bloating
  • Intolerance to fatty foods
  • Belching
  • Heartburn

Burning pain in the stomach is a common sign linked to peptic ulcer. The acid in the stomach can make the pain worse. You will also feel severe pain when you have an empty stomach. You will find temporary relief when you consume specific foods that act as a buffer to stomach acid. It is also possible to get relief by taking acid-reducing medication. But, the effects are temporary. People affected by stomach ulcer can experience worse pain between meals as well as at night. In the majority of the cases, people suffering from the condition may not experience any symptoms in the beginning. But, in some cases, the condition can trigger signs like:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Vomiting or see blood in the vomit (it appears red or black)
  • Black or tarry stools
  • Presence of dark blood in stools
  • Nausea
  • Feeling faint
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Changes in appetite

If you experience the symptoms suggested above or find no relief with over-the-counter medications, then see a doctor. Your doctor can diagnose the exact reason triggering the discomfort and offer treatment options.

Causes Of Peptic Ulcer

Peptic ulcers are open sores on the inner surface of your stomach or small intestine. It develops when the acid present in the digestive tract eats away the protective lining of the stomach or small intestine. So, the acid can create open sores. You can experience bleeding as well as pain from the open sores. In normal cases, the digestive tract has a mucous layer protecting it from the acid. But, certain factors can cause the amount of acid to increase and the protective mucous to decrease. So, it results in ulcer formation. The common causes triggering the problem include:

A Bacterium Infection

A Bacterium Infection

Helicobacter pylori bacteria or H. pylori lives in the mucous layers covering the tissue that lines your stomach and small intestine. In the majority of the cases, the presence of H. pylori bacteria causes not a problem to the protective lining. But, in some cases, it can cause inflammation of the stomach’s lining and produce open sores. H. pylori infections mostly transmit from one person to another with close contact like kissing. It is also possible to contract the infection by sharing food and water.

Regular Use Of Pain Relievers

If you use over-the-counter pain relievers regularly, then it can have adverse effects on your digestive lining. So, when you take certain OTC or prescription pain medication coming under the category of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause inflammation or irritation of the stomach as well as small intestines. The medications include:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Aspirin
  • Naproxen sodium
  • Medications for osteoarthritis

In normal cases, acetaminophen does not come under the medication list. The condition is common among older adults who take such medications frequently.

Other Medications

Taking other medications other than OTC pain relievers can also cause problems. When you take specific medications along with NSAIDs can result in open sores. So, maintain caution while using the following medications:

Risk Factors Associated With Peptic Ulcers

Some people are more vulnerable to the problem compared to others. The following factors put you at risk of developing peptic ulcers compared to others:


If you smoke, then you experience an infection of H. pylori. So, quit smoking to reduce the risk of the problem.

Consume Alcohol

Drinking alcohol can irritate the stomach lining and cause erosion. It also triggers excess production of stomach acid resulting in open sores.

Experience Stress

If you have untreated stress, then it increases your chances of developing ulcers. Stress is a negative emotion that results in developing open sores or worsen them.

Eat Spicy Foods

Eating spicy foods can irritate the stomach and intestine lining. So, it worsens the existing ulcers and triggers pain.

The above-mentioned factors alone cannot develop ulcers. But, the conditions can make the problem worse. So, it becomes difficult to heal the condition.

Complications Due To Peptic Ulcer

You must never ignore the pain caused due to ulcer development in the stomach and small intestine. It is important to seek medical attention as early as possible to avoid other complications. With no proper medical assistance, you can experience the following:

Internal Bleeding

Untreated open sores can result in slow bleeding. Blood loss occurring over some time can lead to anemia. In severe cases, severe blood loss can result in hospitalization or need a blood transfusion. You can experience bloody or black vomit due to the problem. It can also result in bloody or black stools.


Complications Due To Peptic Ulcer

Peptic ulcers can cause perforation on the wall of your stomach or small intestine. The hole in the protective lining of the digestive tract can put you at risk of serious infection. The infection of the abdominal cavity, also known as peritonitis can put your life at risk.


Obstruction means blocking the food passage. So, the ulcers can restrict the passage of food through the digestive tract. It can make you feel full. The condition can result in vomiting or loss of appetite. The ulcers can cause inflammation, swelling, or scarring leading to severe discomfort.

Diagnosing Peptic Ulcer

When you experience the signs or symptoms, then see your doctor. Getting medical assistance swiftly can limit the complications and help manage the pain associated with it. Your doctor can suggest the following diagnostic tests:

Physical Examination

To detect the ulcer, your doctor performs a thorough physical examination. The medical history, as well as physical examination, can offer a clear idea about the problem you suffer. Based on the assessment, your doctor can suggest other diagnostic tests.

Laboratory Tests

Your doctor can suggest lab tests for detecting H. pylori. So, your doctor can determine if you have the presence of the bacterium in your body. Several tests like blood, stool or breath test can determine the presence of infection. But, the breath test is the most accurate among the different tests. Blood tests only offer inaccurate results. So, you cannot use it routinely.

Breath Test

When you undergo a breath test, you must eat or drink something that contains radioactive carbon. The presence of H. pylori in your stomach has the capability to breakdown the substance in the stomach. The next step is to blow into the bag. It is sealed and sent for analysis. If you suffer from H. pylori infection, then the breath sample will contain carbon dioxide (it is the form of radioactive carbon).

Before undergoing the test, you need to avoid using antacid before the test. You need to inform your doctor about the medications you take. Depending on the test you use, it is necessary to discontinue medication for a specified period. Some medications like antacids can lead to false-negative results.



Endoscopy involves using a camera to examine the upper digestive system. The scope is attached to a hollow tube, which is sent through your throat into the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine to check for open sores. Endoscopy can also help retrieve a small tissue sample. Endoscopy is the test suggested for people who are older or experience signs of bleeding. It is also ideal for people who have trouble eating and have weight loss. If the test shows the presence of a peptic ulcer, then your doctor can suggest follow-up endoscopy after treatment. It will show the doctor conclusively if the ulcer has healed or not. It is suggested even when your symptoms improve.


The sample extracted from the endoscopy is sent to the lab for further examination. It will help detect the presence of cancerous cells. The biopsy can identify if H. pylori bacteria are present in your stomach lining.

Upper Gastrointestinal Series

The test also called at times as barium swallow offers a clear picture of your digestive system. The series of x-rays taken of the organs of the digestive system like small intestine, stomach or esophagus can provide vital information about the problem. During the test, you need to swallow a white liquid containing barium. The liquid coats the digestive tract. So, it provides a clear picture of the ulcers.

The tests can help you determine the underlying health condition triggering the problem. It is highly significant in developing the apt treatment plan.

Treatment For Peptic Ulcer

The treatment option your doctor suggests can depend entirely on the underlying cause. The treatment usually involves killing H. pylori from your body. If the bacterium is present, the treatment focuses on reducing or eliminating the use of NSAIDs. So, it will help your ulcer to heal well.

Medications For Peptic Ulcer

In most cases, your doctor suggests medications to deal with the problem. The medication to manage the problem includes:

Antibiotic Medications

Antibiotic medications can kill H. pylori in your digestive tract. Your doctor can prescribe a combination of antibiotics to eliminate the bacterium. The medications your doctor can suggest for the purpose are:

  • Amoxicillin
  • Tetracycline
  • Metronidazole
  • Levofloxacin

The antibiotics suggested by your doctor depend on the place of residence as well as your current antibiotic resistance rates. You have to take the medications as suggested by the doctor (two weeks) along with the medication to reduce stomach acid.

Proton Pump Inhibitor

It is the medication that can block the acid production in your stomach. So, it is mostly used in combination with antibiotics to promote healing PPIs (Proton Pump Inhibitors) blocks the action of the cells that produce stomach acid. So, the medications suggested by your doctor or available over-the-counter to reduce the acid production are:

  • Pantoprazole
  • Omeprazole
  • Esomeprazole
  • Rabeprazole
  • Lansoprazole

The long-term use of proton pump inhibitors at high doses can put you at risk of fractures. It can make you vulnerable to the spine, wrist, and hip fracture. So, discuss with your doctor about taking a calcium supplement to reduce your risk of fractures.

Acid Blockers

Your doctor can suggest taking medication to reduce acid production and reduce the risk of open sores. Histamine or H-2 blockers can reduce acid production in the stomach and its release into your digestive tract. So, you can get relief from ulcer pain. It also encourages healing from the open sores. You can take the medications, which is available in prescription or over-the-counter form. The medications available are:

  • Nizatidine
  • Cimetidine
  • Famotidine
  • Ranitidine


Your doctor can also prescribe antacids to neutralize the effects of stomach acid. So, you need to include an antacid in your drug regimen. Antacids can provide instant pain relief. But, ask the doctor about the side effects associated with the drug. Using antacids can only offer relief from the symptoms associated with the problem. It does not heal the open sores.

Cytoprotective Agents

You can also take medications that protect the lining of the stomach and small intestine. The medications are known as cytoprotective agents stimulate mucus production. It also enhances the blood flow throughout the gastrointestinal tract lining. it also forms a coating on the ulcerated tissue and protects it from becoming worse. Therefore, you can take medications like:

  • Misoprostol
  • Sucralfate

Surgical Treatment

Your doctor reserves surgical intervention for unresponsive ulcers or for emergency treatment. It is also suggested for complications like bleeding. Your doctor repairs the hemorrhaging and closes it.

Lifestyle And Home Remedies For Peptic Ulcer

Apart from getting the treatment from the doctor, you can adopt some home remedies. The effective remedies can not only offer you relief from the pain due to stomach due to stomach ulcer but also prevent it.

Healthy Diet

You need to include a healthy diet in your life. You have to choose a diet that includes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Including vitamins A and C is important for quick healing of issues like ulcers. Not eating foods rich in vitamins can result in slow healing of problems like a stomach ulcer.

Eat Foods Containing Probiotics

Probiotics contain good bacteria, which help enhance gut health. The food containing probiotics helps fight H. pylori infection better. It also helps the treatment you undergo work better and offer positive results. So, include the following foods in your diet:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Miso
  • Aged cheese
  • Yogurt

Avoid Milk

People suffering from peptic ulcer must consider eliminating milk from their diet. At times, drinking milk can help ease the pain first. But, it can cause excess acid production, resulting in pain. Therefore, you need to talk to your doctor about drinking milk.

Switch Pain Relievers

If you use pain relievers frequently, then talk to your doctor about the right option. Some people can experience worsening of symptoms due to using acetaminophen.

Control Stress

Stress can worsen the signs and symptoms you suffer due to the ulcer. So, try to relieve stress from your life by identifying the source and cause of the problem. You cannot avoid stress completely from your life. But, you can cope with it using effective techniques. Try some of the methods suggested below:

  • Write a journal
  • Spend time with friends
  • Perform relaxation exercises

Quit Smoking

Smoking is injurious to health. It can affect the protective lining of the stomach. So, you can become more susceptible to problems like an ulcer. Smoking also increases the production of stomach acid, causing stomach issues.

Limit Alcohol Consumption

Drinking alcohol can irritate the mucous lining of the stomach and intestines. In severe cases, it can erode the protective lining, leading to inflammation as well as bleeding.

Get Enough Sleep

Your body needs to rest properly. Sleeping can strengthen your immune system and help eliminate stress. Therefore, try to get at least eight hours of sleep every day. To have a peaceful sleep, try not to eat shortly before bedtime.

Preventing Peptic Ulcer

You can prevent the peptic ulcer from affecting your life or manage the problem from recurring again with some strategies. Adopting effective remedies can reduce your risk of getting the problem. So, follow the steps suggested below:

Prevent Infection

You need to take effective steps to protect yourself from infection. Though it remains unclear how H. pylori spread from one person to another. But, some evidence suggests it transmits through water and food. Therefore, you can protect yourself from the infection with the following steps:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water to remove the germs or other harmful external elements from entering your body.
  • Try to eat foods after cooking it properly. It will kill the virus or bacteria in raw foods.

Maintain Caution With Pain Relievers

Use over-the-counter pain relievers with care. Regular use of pain relievers can put you at risk of ulcer in the stomach. So, you need to take steps to eliminate the risk.

  • Always take medications with your meal.
  • Start with the lowest dose of the medication
  • Talk to your doctor about taking OTC pain relievers
  • Avoid consuming alcohol with your medication. The combination of alcohol and medication can increase your risk of stomach problems.
  • Take additional medications like the cytoprotective agent, a PPI, an acid blocker or an antacid with NSAIDs
  • If you need to take NSAIDs, then your doctor can suggest COX-2 inhibitors, which reduces the risk of ulcers.

Always talk to your doctor before taking any medications as some may cause adverse reactions.


A peptic ulcer can cause severe discomfort. Therefore, you must never ignore the warning signs associated with the problem. With proper care and medical assistance, you have an excellent outlook for the problem. In most cases, the problem heals on its own. But, getting medical assistance can speed up healing and prevent further complications. Without treatment, you may experience excruciating pain. So, early medical intervention can prevent the problem from escalating and prevent from recurring.

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