Peptic ulcers are sores or eroded areas that form in the lining of the digestive tract. They usually occur in the stomach (gastric ulcer) or in the duodenum (duodenal ulcer), which is the first part of the small intestine.
- Pain / burning or discomfort (usually in the upper abdomen)
- An early sense of fullness with eating
- Lack of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Bleeding, which will result in black and tarry stools that smell bad
Smoking, alcohol, anti-inflammatory medication and aspirin increase the risk of developing ulcers. Psychological stress and dietary factors (once thought to be the cause of ulcers) do not appear to have a major role in their development.
Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria that is frequently found in the stomach, is a major cause of stomach and duodenal ulcers. If this is found you will be given a course of antibiotics.
Diagnosis is made by history taking, examination and sometimes blood tests. A gastroscopy can help to clarify the diagnosis and aid with treatment. Treatment consists of avoiding the causes of peptic ulcers, eradication of Helicobacter pylori (if present) and medication to reduce the amount of acid in the stomach which aids in the healing of ulcers.