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(Q&A) Does stress cause peptic ulcers?

(Q&A) Does stress cause peptic ulcers?

Tuesday, August 9, 2022


We all experience stress, and we all know that stress is responsible for a host of physical ailments. But could the stress you’re feeling be causing your stomach pain? And could that belly pain be a peptic ulcer? Read on to learn more about peptic ulcers, if stress causes them, and what you can do to lessen the chance of getting them. 


Q: What are peptic ulcers? 

A: Peptic ulcers are sores in the inner lining of the stomach or upper small intestine. They form when the digestive juices produced by the stomach erode or eat away the lining of the digestive tract. Peptic ulcers may form in the lining of the stomach (gastric ulcers) or just below the stomach, at the start of the small intestine (duodenal ulcers). 


Q: What causes peptic ulcers? 

A: The most common causes of peptic ulcers are infection with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria and frequent use of aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). 

Some studies have shown that emotional stress can make a person more likely to develop peptic ulcers, but it has not been determined if stress causes ulcers. 


Q: What are the symptoms? 

A: Symptoms of a peptic ulcer can include a burning, aching or gnawing pain between the belly button and the breastbone, and belly pain that is temporarily relieved by taking an antacid. Symptoms can also include back pain, loss of appetite, bloating, nausea and vomiting. Some people have no symptoms. 


Q: How are they diagnosed? 

A: Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and do a physical exam. Your doctor may do some simple tests (using your blood, breath or stool) to look for signs of H. pylori infection. You may have an endoscopy to check the inside of your esophagus, stomach and small intestine. 


Q: How are peptic ulcers treated? 

A: To treat peptic ulcers, most people take medicines that reduce acid in the stomach. If you have an H. pylori infection, you'll also take antibiotics. You can help your ulcer heal by quitting smoking and limiting alcohol. Using medicines such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen may increase the chance of your ulcer returning. 


Q: Can peptic ulcers be prevented? 

A: There are some things you can do to decrease your chance of a peptic ulcer.  

  • Minimize your use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These include aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. 

  • Don’t smoke. 

  • Limit your alcohol intake to no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.  


If you are experiencing symptoms of a peptic ulcer, please consult with your physician to find out for sure what your medical condition is and receive proper treatment.  




Genesis HealthCare System’s Health and Wellness content conveniently provides accurate and helpful information. Your health history and current health may impact suggestions provided through our Health and Wellness content. Although we hope this information is helpful, it is not a substitute for your doctor's medical advice. Before making any significant changes, please consult your doctor.