Bacteria and overuse of NSAIDs are main causes of ulcers

There’s still a widespread belief that drinking too much coffee and eating spicy foods can give you an ulcer, or that stress can cause a “hole” to form in the lining of your stomach. While certain behaviors may make you more susceptible to ulcers or can aggravate an existing ulcer, modern science tells us that ulcers are usually caused by bacterial infection, particularly Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), or by prolonged use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

There are three different types of ulcers (also called peptic ulcers) you can have:

  • Duodenal ulcers (in the lining of the beginning of the small intestine)
  • Gastric ulcers (in the stomach)
  • Esophageal ulcers (in the esophagus)

Duodenal ulcers are the most common type of peptic ulcer. Esophageal ulcers are rare.

Symptoms and diagnosis of peptic ulcers

The most common symptom of ulcers is burning pain in your abdomen anywhere from your chest to your pelvis. Less commonly you might have nausea, burping, bloating, heartburn, and a feeling of being full when you’re not full.

Ulcers tend to heal by themselves, but you may want to see a doctor. Specific tests can indicate whether you’re infected with H. pylori, the leading cause of peptic ulcer disease. The tests can also determine if you have other complications being caused by the ulcer.

Healing and treating ulcers

Treatment for ulcers usually begins with lifestyle changes such as stopping certain medications and removing triggers such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and eating high-acidic foods. Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics for the infection and may use endoscopy or surgery to treat your condition.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.