What are peptic ulcers?

Peptic ulcers are sores on the stomach lining, the esophagus, or the small intestine. Digestive juices irritate these sores and cause a stomach ache that may disappear and reappear over time. The main causes of peptic ulcers are certain medications that weaken the lining of the stomach or intestine, or an infection with the bacteria Helicobacter pylori. Common treatments for peptic ulcers include antacids or antibiotics. Peptic ulcers can usually be treated, though if left unattended, they can cause a number of complications.

Picture of Peptic Ulcers
Lawrence S. Friedman, MD
Peptic ulcers are raw, crater-like breaks in the mucosal lining of the digestive tract. They occur in the stomach and duodenum and are linked to the erosive action of gastric acid and sometimes to a reduction in protective mucus. In essence, the stomach, which is designed to digest foods, is digesting a part of its own lining. These localized, generally circular craters are rarely more than an inch in diameter.
A peptic ulcer is a condition in which the mucous lining of the stomach or small intestine is damaged from acids that are secreted from within the stomach. A bacterium called H. pylori is thought to be responsible for many cases of ulcers. H. pylori weakens the mucous lining of the stomach and small intestine, which allows the acid to irritate the lining of the organs, causing a sore or ulcer. (This answer provided for NATA by the University of Montana Athletic Training Education Program.)

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.