An ulcer is a sore; it’s an open, painful wound in the gastrointestinal tract.

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Peptic ulcers are ulcers that form in the stomach or the upper part of the small intestine, called the duodenum. Peptic ulcers are very common. The size of a stomach ulcer can range between 1/8 of an inch to 3/4 of an inch. The ulcer bacteria weaken the defensive coating of the stomach and upper small intestine. Acid in the stomach then gets to the vulnerable tissues lining the digestive system underneath. Acid and bacteria directly irritate this lining resulting in sores, or ulcers. The stomach ulcer mainly affects the nerves surrounding the stomach. The nerves become agitated and cause a great amount of pain. However, stomach ulcers can cause hemorrhages from the erosion of a major blood vessel. For years, doctors believed that stress, spicy foods, and alcohol caused most ulcers. But now we know that most peptic ulcers are caused by a certain bacterial infection in the stomach and upper intestine, by certain medications, or by smoking.

Stomach pain is the most common symptom of an ulcer. This pain often occurs a few hours after eating. It can also happen on an empty stomach. Eating something or taking an antacid medication sometimes makes the pain go away for a short while. Other symptoms of ulcers can include: loss of appetite, sudden, sharp stomach pains, nausea, frequent burping, weight loss, and vomiting, bloody or blackish bowel movements.

Other sources of information for these topics.

MedlinePlus: Peptic Ulcer
... pylori and Peptic Ulcer (National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse) ... Bleeding Ulcer (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) ...

Medinfo: Peptic ulcer
Medinfo's patient information on peptic ulcer, which refers to an area of the stomach or duodenal lining which becomes eroded by the stomach acid.

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