Ulcers are common in our society: About one out of every 10 Americans will suffer from the a peptic (or gastric) ulcer at some point in life.
Peptic ulcers are holes or breaks in the protective lining of the duodenum (the upper part of the small intestine) or the stomach — areas that come into contact with stomach acids and enzymes. Duodenal ulcers are more common than stomach ulcers. Comparatively rare are esophageal ulcers, which form in the esophagus — or swallowing tube — and are often a result of exposure to medications, like certain antibiotics or anti-inflammatories, or alcohol abuse.
While excessive stomach acid secretion certainly plays a role in the development of ulcers, a relatively recent theory holds that bacterial infection (H. pylori) is the primary cause of peptic ulcers.
Other factors such as overuse of over-the-counter painkillers (such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen), heavy alcohol use, psychological stress, and smoking may promote the development of ulcers, especially in someone with H. pylori.
People with type A blood are more likely to develop cancerous stomach ulcers. Duodenal ulcers tend to appear in people with type O blood, possibly because they do not produce the substance on the surface of blood cells that may protect the lining of the duodenum.
Peptic ulcers are treated, and in many cases they are cured with antibiotics, antacids, and other drugs that reduce the amount of acid produced by the stomach. There are also a variety of self-help and alternative treatments that can aid in relieving pain
However, the dangers associated with peptic ulcers — such as anemia, profuse bleeding, and stomach cancer — are serious, so ulcers should always be monitored by your doctor.