Gastric Ulcer
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Gastric Ulcer

(Stomach Ulcer; Peptic Ulcer of the Stomach)

En Español (Spanish Version)


A gastric ulcer is a sore in the lining of your stomach. Ulcers can be treated and a small percentage of them may be cancerous. See your doctor if you think you may have a gastric ulcer.

Gastric Ulcer

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Most gastric ulcers are caused by a bacterial infection (most often Helicobacter pylori ) or the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.

Some factors thought to increase the risk of a gastric ulcer are:

  • Gender: male
  • Older age (the incidence of gastric ulcer peaks at age 50)
  • Regular use of pain medications
  • Smoking
  • High levels of stress
  • Lower socioeconomic status
  • Alcohol use
  • Acid reflux
  • Gastritis
  • Cirrhosis
  • Chronic kidney failure
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Use of steroid medications


Symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain that may wake you at night and be relieved by antacids or milk. This pain usually occurs 2-3 hours after a meal and may be worse when you don't eat.
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal indigestion
  • Vomiting, especially blood
  • Blood in stools or black, tarry stools
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Burning pain in the gut that feels like a dull ache and comes and goes; it often starts 2-3 hours after a meal and goes away after you eat, or it may come in the middle of the night when your stomach is empty.
  • Losing weight
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain while eating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Other tests may include:

  • Biopsy —removal of a sample of tissue for testing
  • Blood tests
  • Endoscopy —a thin, lighted tube inserted down the throat to examine parts of the body
  • Upper gastrointestinal (GI) X-ray —a series of x-rays of the upper digestive system taken after drinking a barium solution (also called a barium swallow)
  • Measurement of bile acid (Bile acid is found in bile. It aids in digestion and absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins in the small intestine.)
  • Breath tests


Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Some ulcers will heal if you avoid caffeine, NSAIDs, alcohol, and tobacco. Other treatment options include:


Medications used to treat gastric ulcers include proton pump inhibitors, histamine receptor blockers, and antibiotics. Treatment with medications focuses on stopping your stomach from making acids and killing the bacteria that is causing your ulcer. Antacids may also help reduce pain and heal ulcers.


If ulcers do not heal with medications, surgery may be needed. Surgery can remove the ulcers and/or reduce the amount of acid your stomach makes.


Steps you can take to prevent gastric ulcers include:

  • Stop using NSAIDs. You can talk with your doctor about alternatives
  • Do not smoke
  • Do not drink alcohol


American College of Gastroenterology

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse


Canadian Association of Gastroenterology

Veteran's Affairs Canada


Gastric ulcer disease. DynaMed website. Available at: . Accessed July 5, 2007.

Helicobacter pylori and peptic ulcer disease. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: . Accessed July 30, 2007.

MedlinePlus website. Available le at . Accessed July 30, 2007.

Last reviewed May 2008 by Daus Mahnke, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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