What is a gastric ulcer? Gastric ulcer, also known as peptic ulcer, is a localized area of erosion in the stomach lining, resulting in abdominal pain, possible bleeding, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. The most common cause of gastric ulcer is a stomach infection associated with the Helicobacter pylori (H pylori) bacteria. The spread of H pylori among humans is not completely understood; it may spread through contaminated food and water. Many people become infected with H pylori at a young age, but symptoms most commonly occur in adulthood. In some people, the H pylori bacteria cause an infection in the lining of the stomach, which may lead to gastric ulcers. Damage to the stomach lining from stomach acid increases the likelihood that H pylori infection will result in a gastric ulcer. Other risk factors for gastric ulcer include alcohol use, tobacco use, and prolonged use of medications such nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Severe illness has also been associated with developing a gastric ulcer. The signs and symptoms of gastric ulcer can be constant or sporadic, and the disease course varies among individuals. If H pylori is the cause, the symptoms will remain as long as the infection is untreated. Some people with gastric ulcers have no symptoms at all, while others may have burning pain, severe nausea, and vomiting. In the case of H pylori-related gastric ulcers, the infection can be treated successfully with antibiotics. For gastric ulcer not related to H pylori, antacids or other medications are an effective treatment. You can reduce your risk of H pylori bacteria infection by following commonsense hygiene practices such as washing your hands with soap and water prior to preparing food and after handling dirty diapers or using the bathroom. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, bloody or black tarry stools, or bloody or black vomit. Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for gastric ulcer but mild symptoms recur or are persistent.