What are ulcers?

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An ulcer is an open sore that occurs on the skin or mucous membranes of the body. Often when people talk about ulcers, they are referring to ulcers that occur in the stomach lining/mucosa (peptic ulcers), which may bein the stomach (and known asgastric ulcers) or in the duodenum, the upper portion of the small intestine (duodenal ulcers).

Symptoms of these types of ulcers may include:

  • stomach pain
  • frequent belching
  • nausea and vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • unexplained weight loss
  • bloody or black stools

Once thought to be caused by stress and/or eating spicy foods, today doctors know that 80 percent of gastric ulcers and 90 percent of duodenal ulcers are due to an infection with bacteria called Helicobacter pylori, or more commonly, simply H. pylori. Treatment for ulcers may include antibiotics to kill the H. pylori bacteria, medications to reduce stomach acid, and lifestyle changes to prevent worsening or aggravating ulcers and to promote healing. These lifestyle changes might include reducing or stopping consumption of caffeine and alcohol and stopping smoking.

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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.