A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop peptic ulcer disease with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing peptic ulcer disease. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk factors for peptic ulcers fall into two categories:

  • Factors that actually cause peptic ulcers
  • Factors that irritate your stomach or increase acid production, making you more susceptible to H. pylori infection

Lifestyle Factors

  • Some studies suggest that cigarette smoking can increase the risk of H. pylori and can slow the healing of peptic ulcers.
  • Drinking acidic beverages such as fruit juices and consuming caffeine-containing foods and beverages can cause stomach irritation and increase production of stomach acid. This can make you more susceptible to H. pylori infection.
  • Alcohol in large quantities can irritate your stomach, leading to an increased susceptibility to H. pylori .
  • Alcohol taken while you are using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents can further irritate your stomach, increasing your chance of developing a peptic ulcer.
  • Even in the absence of alcohol misuse, certain anti-inflammatory medications (including aspirin and most other drugs commonly available over-the-counter or by prescription as “nonsteroidals”) can increase the risk of peptic ulcer. These drugs are responsible for at least half of all peptic ulcers in elderly persons.

Helicobacter Pylori Infection

Infection with Helicobacter pylori is the most well-defined risk factor for the development of peptic ulcers. You have an increased risk of being infected with H. pylori if you:

  • Live in crowded conditions
  • Live in unsanitary conditions
  • Use certain medications, including:
    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications
    • COX-2 inhibitors
    • Corticosteroid drugs (although this connection is less clear than the others)
  • Had prior peptic ulcer disease
  • Have Zollinger-Ellison syndrome
  • Recently had major surgery
  • Recently suffered severe injury or burns
  • Had head trauma
  • Had radiation therapy
  • Have congenital malformations of the stomach and/or duodenum
  • Have specific malignant diseases such as mastocytosis and basophilic leukemia

Age

  • Duodenal ulcers: More common between ages 30-50 years old
  • Gastric ulcer: More common in people over age 60 years old

Gender

  • Duodenal ulcers: Twice as likely in men
  • Gastric ulcers: More common in women

Genetic Factors

You’re more likely to develop a peptic ulcer if you have other family members who have had ulcers.

Ethnic Background

You have twice the risk of developing a peptic ulcer if you are of African-American or Hispanic background.

Other Risk Factors

  • Stress is no longer believed to actually cause ulcers. However, many researchers still believe that stress can play a role in exacerbating symptoms and slow healing of pre-existing peptic ulcers.
  • You may have an increased risk of peptic ulcers if you have type O blood.