What Causes a Bleeding Ulcer?

Cigarette smoking may increase a person's risk for a bleeding ulcer.
A bacteria infection invading the stomach can cause a bleeding ulcer.
Helicobacter pylori bacteria may cause a bleeding ulcer.
Quitting smoking might reduce the risk of a bleeding ulcer.
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  • Written By: Patti Kate
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2015
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Several circumstances may contribute to a bleeding ulcer, the most common of which include excess stomach acid and the use of certain medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) may cause stomach bleeding when used for an extended period of time. A bacterial infection of the stomach may also cause a bleeding ulcer. Some medical experts believe that cigarette smoking may make a person more prone to developing a bleeding ulcer.

A bleeding ulcer may occur in certain individuals who consume alcohol. Excessive drinkers or alcoholics often suffer from bleeding ulcers. In many cases, the individual may mistake the symptoms of a bleeding ulcer for something different because bleeding ulcers often produce symptoms such as fatigue and faintness due to lose of blood. Symptoms may also include heartburn, which some individuals are likely to treat using an antacid, which may worsen a bleeding ulcer.

In some cases, a bacterial infection, typically caused by the Helicobacter pylori bacteria, may cause a bleeding ulcer. When the bacteria invades the stomach lining and intestinal tract, severe pain or cramping may be present. Often, this bacteria erodes the lining of the stomach and leads to a bleeding stomach ulcer. The treatment will typically involve a course of antibiotics, and in most cases the ulcer will heal and bleeding will stop.


Although not as common as other causes, stomach cancer may cause a bleeding ulcer. Some experts believe that being infected with the Helicobacter pylori bacteria makes a patient more prone to developing gastric cancer. If a doctor suspects cancer may be present, he will most likely run some diagnostic tests. Tests may include a computerized tomography (CT) scan or an upper endoscopy, which is done by using a small camera to view the stomach.

Patients recovering from severe trauma, such as burns or internal injuries, may develop what is known as a stress ulcer. When a stress ulcer goes untreated for a long time, the ulcer may cause increased damage to the lining of the stomach. Left untreated, this may lead to stomach bleeding.

Diverticulitis, which causes severe stomach and gastrointestinal pain, may also cause intestinal bleeding. Although uncommon, this condition may cause bleeding ulcers in some individuals. Diverticulitis involves inflamed pouches or pockets in the intestinal tract, which can also lead to infection. If the lining of the stomach becomes infected, bleeding may develop.


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