Peptic Ulcer Disease

Peptic ulcer disease is a common digestive disorder in which acid and pepsin (an important digestive enzyme) cause the lining of the stomach, or the first part of the small intestine, known as the duodenum, to erode. This leads to sores known as peptic ulcers. A peptic ulcer that's located in the stomach is called a gastric ulcer. If a sore is in the duodenum, it is called a duodenal ulcer.

Peptic ulcer disease can cause significant upper abdominal pain, but symptoms may vary somewhat between the two types of peptic ulcers and may need to be treated differently.

The most common causes are now known to be infection by the Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacterium and long-term use of certain pain relievers. Treatments include antibiotics and sometimes surgery.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does peptic ulcer disease occur more frequently in people with a certain blood type?

    While there have been some studies that have suggested that people with blood types A or O may be predisposed to developing peptic ulcer disease, there is no definitive evidence that confirms this correlation.

  • What causes peptic ulcer disease?

    The two most common causes of peptic ulcer disease are infection with a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori) and long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Lifestyle factors such as smoking may also contribute. While it was once thought that stress and spicy foods could cause peptic ulcers, this has been found to be untrue.

  • Can peptic ulcer disease be serious?

    Peptic ulcers can become serious and even life-threatening if ulcers aren't treated or treatment isn't effective. The most common complications include bleeding, perforation of the stomach or duodenal walls, and obstruction of the digestive tract.

  • How is peptic ulcer disease treated?

    Treatments for peptic ulcers include antibiotics to clear H. pylori (the bacterium largely responsible for the disease), prescription and over-the-counter medicines to manage symptoms, and lifestyle modifications, such as avoiding alcohol to help ulcers heal. In rare cases, surgery may be necessary.

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Page Sources
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  1. Ramakrishnan K, Salinas RC. Peptic Ulcer Disease. Am Fam Physician. 2007;76(7):1005-1012.

  2. Chung KT, Shelat VG. Perforated peptic ulcer - an update. World J Gastrointest Surg. 2017;9(1):1-12. doi:10.4240/wjgs.v9.i1.1

  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Upper Gastrointestinal Series.

Additional Reading