What Causes Peptic Ulcers?

Peptic ulcers are open sores that develop on the lining of the stomach, upper small intestine, or esophagus. While they were once thought to be caused mainly by stress and spicy foods, it is now known that most peptic ulcers are primarily caused by a bacterial infection or the use of certain medications. Here are the main causes of peptic ulcers:

  1. Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection: The majority of peptic ulcers are associated with H. pylori infection. This bacterium is believed to be the primary cause of gastric ulcers and is also a common cause of duodenal ulcers. H. pylori infection is typically acquired through contaminated food, water, or close contact with an infected person.
  2. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Regular or long-term use of NSAIDs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and certain prescription medications, can irritate and erode the lining of the stomach and small intestine, leading to the formation of ulcers. NSAIDs inhibit the production of prostaglandins, which help protect the stomach lining.
  3. Excessive stomach acid production: Overproduction of stomach acid can contribute to the development of peptic ulcers. Conditions such as Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, a rare disorder characterized by gastrin-secreting tumors in the pancreas or duodenum, can cause excessive acid production and increase the risk of ulcers.
  4. Smoking: Smoking cigarettes or using tobacco products increases the risk of developing peptic ulcers and can delay the healing process.
  5. Alcohol consumption: Excessive alcohol consumption can irritate and damage the lining of the stomach, making it more susceptible to ulcer formation.

It’s important to note that stress and spicy foods, while they may exacerbate ulcer symptoms, are not considered direct causes of peptic ulcers.

The treatment of peptic ulcers typically involves a combination of medications to eradicate H. pylori infection (if present), reduce stomach acid production, and promote ulcer healing. Lifestyle modifications, such as avoiding NSAIDs, limiting alcohol consumption, and quitting smoking, are also important for managing and preventing peptic ulcers. If you suspect you have a peptic ulcer or are experiencing symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, or bleeding, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.