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A to Z: Peptic Ulcers

May also be called: Gastric Ulcer, Duodenal Ulcer

Peptic ulcers are painful sores in the lining of the stomach or upper part of the small intestine. 

More to Know

Ulcers happen when something weakens the protective coating inside the stomach or intestine. This lets stomach acid and bacteria get through to the sensitive lining, causing irritation and ulcers. Stomach pain below the breastbone is the most common symptom of an ulcer. 

The two most common causes of peptic ulcers are:

  • infection with the bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (or H. pylori
  • use of pain reliever medicines like aspirin or ibuprofen 

Other medicines and serious illnesses also can cause ulcers.

Doctors treat ulcers based on what caused them. If bacteria are the problem, doctors prescribe antibiotics. If medicines are the cause, doctors might stop or change the medicine. Doctors will also give people medicines to reduce acid in the stomach.

Keep in Mind

Alcohol and smoking can aggravate an ulcer. Caffeine can cause the stomach to release more acid, making an ulcer worse. Unless a particular food is bothersome, most doctors don’t recommend dietary restrictions. 

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.