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Peptic ulcer

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From MayoClinic.com

Peptic ulcers are open sores that develop on the inside lining of your stomach, upper small intestine or esophagus. The most prominent symptom of a peptic ulcer is pain. Too much stress, too much spicy food, and you may be headed for an ulcer - or so the thinking used to go.

Not long ago, the common belief was that peptic ulcers were a result of lifestyle. A great deal has changed. Doctors now know that a bacterial infection or medications, not stress or diet, cause most ulcers of the stomach and upper part of the small intestine. Most ulcers of the esophagus are associated with the reflux of stomach acid.

Depending on their location, ulcers have different names:

  • Gastric ulcer. A peptic ulcer that occurs in your stomach is called a gastric ulcer.
  • Duodenal ulcer. An ulcer that develops in your small intestine is named for the section of the intestine where it develops. The most common is a duodenal ulcer, which develops in the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine.
  • Esophageal ulcer. An esophageal ulcer is usually located in the lower section of your esophagus. It's often associated with chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Peptic ulcers are common. The good news is that, oftentimes, successful treatment of ulcers takes just a few weeks.

Signs and symptoms

Gnawing pain is the most common symptom of a peptic ulcer. The pain is caused both by the ulcer and by stomach acid coming in contact with the ulcerated area. The pain typically may:

  • Be felt anywhere from your navel to your breastbone

  • Last from a few minutes to many hours

  • Be worse when your stomach is empty

  • Flare at night

  • Often be temporarily relieved by eating certain foods that buffer stomach acid or by taking an acid-reducing medication

Less often, ulcers may cause severe signs or symptoms such as:

  • The vomiting of blood — which may appear red or black

  • Dark blood in stools or stools that are black or tarry

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Pain in your upper back


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Last Modified : 03/15/08 01:45 AM