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What Causes Stomach Ulcers?

If you have a stomach ulcer, you’re probably wondering what causes them and how you can prevent getting one ever again. Though many people believe that stress and spicy foods cause ulcers, this is not true! However, there are a few things you can do to avoid experiencing the discomfort of a stomach ulcer. 

What Are Stomach Ulcers? 

Stomach ulcers, also called peptic ulcers, are open internal sores that often cause stomach pain. There are two kinds of stomach ulcers: gastric ulcers, which are found in the stomach’s inner lining, and duodenal ulcers, which are found in the upper part of the small intestine. 

If you’re concerned you may have a stomach ulcer, there are treatments to help. However, if you experience symptoms for an extended period of time, you should contact your doctor. Typical symptoms of peptic ulcers include: 

  • Intense stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Heartburn
  • Difficulty digesting foods with high-fat content 
  • Intestinal discomfort, including bloating and burping

What Causes Stomach Ulcers?

Most cases of peptic ulcers are identified by a burning stomach pain, which becomes worse with an empty stomach or an increased amount of stomach acid. Though many people think that eating spicy foods or an abundance of stress causes stomach ulcers, this is a misconception. However, these things can make pre-existing ulcers more painful, so it is beneficial to avoid them if you already have a peptic ulcer. 

Though there are several things that may cause stomach ulcers, most cases are caused by either an H. pylori infection or consistent use of anti-inflammatory medications, such as Advil, Aleve, Motrin, and others. It can be difficult to prevent stomach ulcers entirely, but understanding what causes them can help you avoid unnecessary risk factors. 

A Type of Bacteria

The lining of your stomach and small intestine often contain bacteria called Helicobacter pylori. Though this usually doesn’t cause any complications, it can sometimes lead to the development of an ulcer by causing inflammation. Doctors are not sure how H. pylori infections spread, but they believe it could be contagious between people or be found in food and water.

Frequent Usage of Pain Relievers 

Some over-the-counter medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium, can cause a similar irritation in the lining of your stomach. Taking these medications every once in a while does not cause a problem. However, patients who take this type of medication every day may need to be mindful of this side effect. Some other medications, such as steroids, SSRIs, and anticoagulants, may also increase the risk of ulcers. 

Risk Factors

Some activities can increase the likelihood of developing stomach ulcers, even though they do not directly cause them. Additional risk factors include smoking, drinking alcohol, eating spicy foods, and experiencing a high level of stress for a sustained amount of time. 


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What Treatments Are Available for Stomach Ulcers?

Depending on the cause of a peptic ulcer, there are different treatments available. For example, if an ulcer was caused by an H. pylori infection, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to kill the bacteria. 

If an ulcer was caused by an abundance of stomach acid, as caused by regular use of some pain medications, you may be prescribed a proton pump inhibitor. Also known as PPI, this medication blocks your cells from producing additional acid. Acid blockers and antacids can also help with these kinds of ulcers.

Most stomach ulcers cause discomfort but can be effectively treated through one of the above methods. Though uncommon, some severe cases of stomach ulcers can produce:

  • Bloody vomit or stools
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Changes in appetite 

If any of these symptoms appear, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. 

What Can I Do To Prevent Stomach Ulcers?

Though it is difficult to entirely protect yourself from the development of stomach ulcers, there are a few strategies you can use to reduce your risk. To prevent an ulcer from an H. pylori infection, wash your hands regularly and make sure that any food you eat has been prepared safely. 

If you need to take pain relievers often, make sure you are taking the lowest dosage possible that still gives you the desired effects. You can also protect your stomach lining by ensuring you always take the medication with food and avoid combining it with alcohol. 


*Individual Results May Vary


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Do you have questions about stomach ulcers? Reach out to Cochise Oncology at (520) 803-6644 or fill out the consultation form on this page. 

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