Symptoms and Signs of Peptic Ulcers

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 10/29/2021

Doctor's Notes on Peptic Ulcers

peptic ulcer is an erosion of the lining of the esophagus, stomach or duodenum. The development of peptic ulcers is related to the presence of H. pylori bacteria in the stomach or taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) in about half of cases. Other possible causes of peptic ulcers can include smoking, severe psychological stress, or certain drugs. Sometimes, the exact cause is not known. 

Symptoms of a peptic ulcer do not necessarily relate to the degree or severity of the ulceration. The most common symptom is pain in the upper abdomen, which can be felt as burning, sharp, stabbing, or dull. Associated symptoms can include feeling full when eating, and acid reflux (heartburn). The pain often occurs 1-3 hours after eating or during the night and is relieved by food or antacids that neutralize stomach acid.

What Is the Treatment for Peptic Ulcers?

Treatment for peptic ulcers is designed to control pain, promote healing of the ulcer, and prevent recurrences or further ulcer development. Therefore, treatment usually involves a combination of measures, including:

  • Smoking cessation
  • Avoidance of alcohol and pain relievers that worsen the condition
  • Antacids
  • Medications to decrease acid production in the stomach, such as proton pump inhibitor drugs or H2 blockers
  • Antibiotics to treat H. pylori infection if present

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.