Ulcers | Causes & Risk Factors

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What causes ulcers?

Doctors used to think ulcers were caused by stress or by eating food with too much acid in it. We now know this isn’t true. Most ulcers are caused by an infection. The infection is caused by a bacteria (germ) called Helicobacter pylori (say: hell-ee-ko-back-ter pie-lore-ee”), or H. pylori for short. Acid and other juices made by the stomach can contribute to ulcers by burning the lining of your digestive tract. This can happen if your body makes too much acid or if the lining of your digestive tract is damaged in some way. Physical or emotional stress may not necessarily cause an ulcer, but it can aggravate an ulcer if you have one.

Ulcers can also be caused by anti-inflammatory medicines. Although most people take these medicines without problems, long-term use may damage the stomach lining and cause ulcers. Anti-inflammatory drugs include aspirin, ibuprofen (one brand name: Motrin), naproxen (brand name: Aleve), ketoprofen (brand names: Actron, Orudis KT) and some prescription drugs for arthritis.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 05/14
Created: 01/96

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