Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
Peptic ulcers are eroded areas in the stomach (gastric ulcers) or first part of the intestine (duodenal ulcers). Ulcers occur in areas where the lining of the stomach or intestine is worn away and irritated, causing pain or bleeding.
Normally, a mucous coating protects the lining of the stomach and the intestine. This coating can be disrupted by a bacterial infection from
(H. pylori) or by irritating medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). When this mucous coat is disrupted, strong digestive juices can erode the lining underneath it. This causes the ulcer.
Lifestyle factors such as diet and stress were once thought to be responsible for causing ulcers. However, now we know that the vast majority of ulcers are due to
infection or NSAID use.
In addition to creating discomfort, ulcers are serious because they can cause:
Many more people are infected with
than ever develop an ulcer. It is not known why some people infected with this kind of bacteria develop ulcers while others don’t. It is also not known how people become infected with
It may be passed in food or water. It also seems to live in the saliva of infected people, allowing the bacteria to be passed through kissing, for example.
Meurer LN, Bower DJ. Management of
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Peptic ulcer disease. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116374/Peptic-ulcer-disease. Updated May 11, 2015. Accessed April 29, 2013.
Peptic ulcer disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at:
http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/peptic-ulcer/Pages/overview.aspx. Updated April 30, 2012. Accessed April 29, 2013.
Understanding peptic ulcer disease.
American Gastroenterological Association website. Available at:
http://www.gastro.org/info_for_patients/2013/6/6/understanding-peptic-ulcer-disease. Accessed April 29, 2013.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Daus Mahnke, MD
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