Duodenal Ulcer
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Duodenal Ulcer

(Peptic Ulcer of the Duodenum)

En Español (Spanish Version)


A duodenal ulcer is a sore in the lining of the first part of your small intestine, known as the duodenum. Ulcers can be treated, and a small percentage of them may be cancerous. See your doctor if you think you may have a duodenal ulcer.

Duodenal Ulcer


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Ninety-five percent of duodenal ulcers are from a bacterial infection by Helicobacter pylori (H pylori). Other causes include:

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 duodenal ulcer are:

  • Gender: male
  • Age: the incidence of duodenal ulcers peaks around age 40
  • Family history of duodenal ulcers


Symptoms of a duodenal ulcer may include:

  • 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
  • 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 duodenal 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 duodenal 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


Duodenal peptic ulcer disease. DynaMed website. Available at: http://dynamed101.ebscohost.com/Detail.aspx?id=116159. Accessed July 5, 2007.

What I need to know about peptic ulcers. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Available at: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/pepticulcers_ez/. Accessed July 5, 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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