Peptic Ulcers - Diagnosis & Treatment

How are peptic ulcers diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects you have a peptic ulcer, they may first review your medical history and perform a physical examination. Based on your results, your doctor may recommend additional tests, such as:

  • Laboratory tests for H. pylori infection, which may involve a blood, breath or stool antigen test.
  • Endoscopy, which involves the insertion of a scope into your oesophagus to examine your digestive tract. A small tissue sample (biopsy) may be removed for further examination in a lab.
  • Upper gastrointestinal series, where you will be asked to drink a liquid suspension (usually containing barium) that will coat the inner lining of your digestive tract. X-ray images will then be taken so that your doctor can evaluate your condition.

How are peptic ulcers treated?

Based on the severity and cause of your condition, your doctor may recommend:

  • Avoiding the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
  • Using acid control medications to neutralise acid levels in the stomach.
  • Taking prescribed antibiotics to kill H. pylori bacteria.
  • Stopping smoking and alcohol consumption.

Prescription medications

If your peptic ulcer is caused by NSAIDs, your doctor may advise you to stop or reduce your consumption of the NSAID, or switch to a different medicine. Your doctor may also prescribe the following medicines to reduce stomach acid and help your ulcers heal:

  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) to reduce stomach acid and protect the stomach and duodenum lining.
  • Histamine receptor blockers to stop the production of histamine.
  • Mucosal protective agents to coat ulcers and protect them against acid and enzymes, thus facilitating the healing process.
  • Antacids to quickly weaken or neutralise stomach acid for symptom relief.

Lifestyle changes

Your doctor may also advise you to:

  • Avoid trigger foods that worsen your symptoms.
  • Quit smoking to facilitate healing of the ulcers and prevent recurrence.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine intake.


In rare cases, surgery may be required for the following reasons:

  • Tear or block in the stomach or duodenum.
  • Symptoms that do not respond to drug therapy.
  • Uncontrolled or recurrent bleeding.

Speak to a gastroenterologist to learn more about treatment options best suited for you.

This page has been reviewed by our medical content reviewers.

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