Your stomach makes a lot of acid, which helps digest food. Normally, the lining of your stomach and intestines has defenses against the acid. If something interferes with those defenses, the acid can cause damage.
"Peptic" has to do with digestion. An ulcer is a sore. So a peptic ulcer is a sore in the lining of your stomach or the first part of your small intestine (an area called the duodenum). Peptic ulcers in your stomach are called gastric ulcers. Ulcers in the first part of the small intestine are called duodenal ulcers.
Photo provided by David M. Martin, MD.
Stomach and Intestine
The 2 most common causes of peptic ulcers are:
People who smoke are more likely to develop a peptic ulcer. Also, their ulcers heal more slowly and are likely to come back.
Many people with a peptic ulcer have no symptoms. When they happen, the most common symptom is:
Peptic ulcers can cause problems such as:
Your doctor may suspect an ulcer based on your symptoms and just start you on ulcer treatment. If you get better, they often don't do any tests.
However, doctors may do tests if:
Doctors treat ulcers with medicines, such as: