An ulcer is an open sore usually found on the skin or mucous membrane areas of the body. A peptic ulcer is a sore in the stomach lining or duodenum, the first part of the small intestine. If peptic ulcers are found in the stomach, they're called gastric ulcers. Ulcers found in the duodenum are called duodenal ulcers. Peptic ulcers are caused by bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen, and other diseases. Stress or spicy foods do not cause ulcers, but they can make them worse.
Some people with peptic ulcers report very mild symptoms. Others are more severe. The most common symptom is a burning pain in the gut. The pain comes and goes for a few days or weeks, starts two to three hours after eating, occurs at night when the stomach is empty and usually goes away after you eat. Other symptoms include:
- Weight loss
- Loss of desire to eat
- Pain while eating
- Nausea and vomiting
Peptic ulcers can be diagnosed with endoscopy, a procedure in which a thin adjustable instrument with a camera attached at the end is inserted into the patient's mouth or rectum. Medications may also be prescribed.