A stomach ulcer may go away on its own without treatment. However, this can take a long time, in which a person is likely to experience pain and discomfort. Delaying medical treatment may also increase the risk of complications.

In most cases, a person will require medical intervention to treat a stomach ulcer and help prevent further health complications.

This article reviews whether stomach ulcers can heal on their own, treatment options, how to help prevent stomach ulcers, and when to speak with a doctor.

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It is possible for a stomach ulcer to heal on its own without treatment, but it is far more likely that a person will experience pain and discomfort for weeks or months if they do not go to a healthcare professional to receive treatment for their ulcer.

Home remedies and over-the-counter medications may help ease the pain or discomfort a person is feeling, but they will not help the ulcer heal. They also cannot address the underlying cause of the ulcers, such as Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection or the effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

A healthcare professional will prescribe or recommend medications to help the ulcer to heal. These medications can also help prevent complications and future recurrences. Examples include proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and H2 blockers.

A person’s stomach ulcer may heal after taking PPIs for several weeks.

Even after treatment, ulcers can return. If this happens, a doctor will likely recommend additional diagnostic tests or further treatments. These may include:

  • biopsies through upper gastrointestinal endoscopy
  • checking for and treating any potential underlying causes, such as H. pylori infection
  • taking additional medications
  • quitting smoking, if applicable

It is important to note that without treatment, complications may develop.

Common complications of stomach ulcers can include:

  • bleeding
  • obstruction, which is when an ulcer stops food from going through the digestive system
  • perforation (formation of a hole) in the stomach lining
  • penetration, which is when an ulcer erodes into another organ, such as the pancreas or liver

A stomach ulcer with complications will typically require treatment in hospital for complications.

According to the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG), most people with peptic ulcers will take PPIs to help them heal. A person should take them about 30 minutes to 1 hour before eating a meal. Taking them outside this time window may cause the medication to be less effective.

In some cases, a doctor may prescribe H2 blockers or other medications to manage the ulcers.

People who developed an ulcer due to NSAIDs will likely need to discontinue these medications. A doctor may recommend other options to help manage any chronic pain or inflammation.

An H. pylori infection typically requires a course of antibiotics. A person should finish the complete course of antibiotics in order to ensure all the bacteria are gone. If a person stops taking the antibiotics early, some of the bacteria may survive and could develop antibiotic resistance.

Stomach ulcers do not occur as a result of eating certain types of food or stress. While managing stress and maintaining a balanced diet may benefit someone’s overall health, they will not help prevent ulcers from occurring.

A person can take some steps to prevent stomach ulcers, including:

  • quitting smoking, if applicable
  • changing certain medications, such as NSAIDs, with a doctor’s guidance
  • testing for and treating H. pylori infection before taking NSAIDs for a long period of time
  • taking PPIs with NSAIDs, if a person needs to take them

A person should consider contacting a doctor if they experience symptoms that could indicate they have a stomach ulcer. Some common symptoms of stomach ulcers include:

A doctor may diagnose an ulcer after a physical examination and other diagnostic tests. They will likely review the medications a person takes and a person’s family history. They may also order tests for H. pylori.

By diagnosing the underlying cause of a stomach ulcer, a healthcare professional can recommend the most appropriate treatment to help ensure that it heals and does not return or develop complications.

While stomach ulcers may go away on their own, this can take a long time, in which a person is likely to experience pain and discomfort.

A healthcare professional can recommend treatments to heal stomach ulcers, treat their underlying causes, and help prevent further complications.

A person should speak with a doctor if they think they may be experiencing symptoms of a stomach ulcer.