Health Guide

Peptic ulcer

What is it?

A peptic ulcer is an open sore in the stomach or duodenum (dew-o-d-num). The duodenum is part of the intestine. Gastric ulcers are peptic ulcers in the stomach. Duodenal ulcers are peptic ulcers in the intestine. Peptic ulcers may be a short or long-term problem. Most ulcers heal with treatment but it is possible for the ulcer to return.


Most peptic ulcers are caused by a stomach bacteria. Helicobacter (hee-li-ko-bak-ter) Pylori (pi-lor-ee) or H. Pylori is a bacteria or germ that causes infection (in-fek-shun) in the stomach and intestine. Stress or certain medicines may also cause peptic ulcers. Other causes may be smoking or drinking too much alcohol.

Signs and Symptoms:

The most common sign is burning pain in your upper abdomen (belly) pain. But you may have pain below your breastbone. The pain is caused by stomach acid touching your ulcer. This pain may come and go. The pain may wake you up from sleep. Other signs may be burping, nausea (upset stomach), or vomiting (throwing up). Ulcers may cause bleeding. You may see bright red or dark black blood in your BM. If you vomit, you may see bright red blood or partially digested blood that looks like coffee grounds.

Wellness Recommendations:

Do not smoke as it may prevent ulcer healing. Alcohol may increase your abdominal pain. Acetaminophen, an over-the-counter medicine, may be used for pain. Do not use aspirin or other anti-inflammatory medicine.

Medical Care:

Medicine, such as antibiotics, may be used to treat your peptic ulcer. Other tests may be done if your ulcer begins to bleed. Surgery is sometimes needed to treat peptic ulcers.

Dietary Measures:

  • A high fiber diet may reduce the risk of peptic ulcers.
  • Food allergies may make your peptic ulcer worse. Keep a food diary to learn what foods may trigger a flare-up of your ulcer.
  • Avoid products that contain caffeine as it may make your ulcer symptoms worse.

Herbs and Supplements:

Before taking any herbs or supplements, ask your caregiver if it is OK. Talk to your caregiver about how much you should take. If you are using this medicine without instructions from your caregiver, follow the directions on the label. Do not take more medicine or take it more often than the directions tell you to. The herbs and supplements listed may or may not help treat your condition.



      Complementary Therapies:

      • Hypnosis may help peptic ulcers.
      • Massage may improve peptic ulcer symptoms.
      • Stress reduction techniques may be helpful.

      Do's and Don'ts:

      Do not take aspirin, smoke, or drink alcohol. It is OK to take acetaminophen for pain. But do not take any other pain medicine unless your caregivers says it is OK.

      Other ways of treating your symptoms : Other ways to treat your symptoms are available to you.

      Talk to your caregiver if:

      • You would like medicine to treat peptic ulcer.
      • Your symptoms have not gone away or improved by these self-help measures.
      • You have diarrhea or constipation that may be caused by antacids.
      • You have questions about what you have read in this document.


      • Your vomit looks like coffee grounds or has bright red blood in it.
      • Your BMs are bright red or black and tarry-looking.
      • You have bad abdominal (belly) pain.
      • You are too weak to stand up.

      Care Agreement:

      You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. You can then discuss treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care may be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


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      Last Updated: 6/4/2018
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