Ulcers | Treatment


How can ulcers be treated?

One way to treat ulcers is to get rid of the H. pylori bacteria. Treatment may also be aimed at lowering the amount of acid that your stomach makes, neutralizing the acid and protecting the injured area so it can heal. It's also very important to stop doing things, such as smoking and drinking alcohol, that damage the lining of your digestive tract.

What is triple therapy?

Triple therapy is a treatment to eliminate H. pylori. It is a combination of 2 antibiotics and bismuth subsalicylate (one brand name: Pepto-Bismol). Other combinations may also be effective. This treatment may be used with medicine that reduces the amount of acid your stomach makes.

What about other medicines?

Several other medicines can be used to help treat ulcers. Two types of medicines (H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors) reduce the amount of acid that your stomach makes. They usually help people start to feel better within 3 days.

Antacids neutralize acid that the stomach makes. A medicine called sucralfate coats the ulcer to protect it from the acid so it has time to heal.

Another medicine, misoprostol, reduces the amount of acid and protects the lining of the stomach. It is usually used to prevent gastric ulcers in people who need to take anti-inflammatory drugs and who have had stomach irritation or ulcers in the past.

How long will I have to take medicine?

Treatment to get rid of H. pylori usually takes about 2 to 3 weeks. Your doctor may want you to take medicine that lowers the stomach acid for up to 8 weeks. Most ulcers heal within this time.

If your symptoms come back after you stop taking medicine, your doctor may want you to take a different medicine or take a low dose of medicine even when you're not having symptoms to keep the ulcer from coming back.

Tips on healing your ulcer

  • Don't smoke.
  • Avoid anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol (or have them only in small amounts and on a full stomach).
  • Avoid spicy foods if they cause heartburn.

Does what I eat affect my ulcer?

It may. But this isn't true for everyone. Certain foods and drinks may be more likely to make your pain worse. These include both regular and decaffeinated coffee, tea, chocolate, meat extracts, alcohol, black pepper, chili powder, mustard seed and nutmeg. You may want to avoid these things if they bother you. But keep your diet balanced. Try eating small, frequent meals when you're having pain.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

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