The signs and symptoms of a peptic ulcer vary, and some symptoms may be shared with other medical problems. A peptic ulcer is a lesion in the stomach’s lining or at the start of the small intestine. Peptic ulcers are called gastric ulcers if they reside in the stomach, while a peptic ulcer that resides in the small intestine is called a duodenal ulcer. Less commonly, peptic ulcers can occur in the esophagus.
Peptic ulcers are quite common and individuals can develop many in their lifetime or could have a peptic ulcer in more than one area at the same time. If you have any signs or symptoms of a peptic ulcer, contact your doctor.
Pain Or Discomfort
Pain in the stomach is the most common symptom associated with peptic ulcer. The acid in the stomach irritates the ulcer itself, which typically causes this pain. The pain associated with peptic ulcers can be isolated to one area or it can be felt across the abdomen. Typically, pain associated with peptic ulcer is described as gnawing, burning, stabbing or aching. Pain associated with peptic ulcer can:
- Be felt anywhere from the belly button to the breastbone
- Increase when you have not eaten
- Seem worse at night
- Be temporarily relieved by eating or taking antacids
- Subside for a period of time and then return
The atypical swelling or feeling of fullness in the abdominal area is associated with bloating, which can be a sign or symptom of a peptic ulcer. Bloating rarely causes pain, but it can be very uncomfortable. Bloating can be characterized as:
- A feeling of fullness or tightness in the abdomen
- A feeling of fullness that is accompanied by stomach growling
- A feeling of fullness that is accompanied by sharp pain or stomach cramping
[Related: 4 Easy Ways To Reduce Gas And Bloating]
A sensation of feeling full is often associated with peptic ulcer. This feeling of fullness is not the same full feeling that is associated with bloating. Where bloating is similar to being puffed up with excess air, feeling full refers more to the stomach seeming full, as if you’ve eaten too much. Feeling full is characterized by:
- Stomach fullness, even if you’ve only had a small amount to eat
- The inability to drink as much liquid as a person that does not have an ulcer
- Feeling like your stomach is full quickly upon eating
Feeling Hungry Shortly After Eating
Feeling hungry after you’ve just eaten is a telltale sign of a peptic ulcer. It is not uncommon for a person with a peptic ulcer to experience a constant hunger. Typically, this hunger is gnawing accompanied by hunger pains.
The release of gas from the stomach and esophagus through the mouth is called belching. Belching, when accompanied by other symptoms, can be an indication a peptic ulcer. Some people with peptic ulcer feel as though belching helps to reduce the bloating, gas and burning sensation associated with the condition, and may swallow air to bring about belching to relieve this discomfort.
Acid reflux is its own condition, which has many of the same signs and symptoms of peptic ulcer. Individuals who suffer from acid reflux that is persistent and gets worse overtime may actually have a peptic ulcer. Symptoms of acid reflux include:
- Loss of appetite
The bacterium H. pylori typically causes the nausea that is associated with peptic ulcer, and it is one of the main causes of peptic ulcers. Many individuals have this bacterium in their stomach but it never produces any symptoms. Advanced cases of H. pylori bacteria can cause peptic ulcers.
Stomach Pain That Is Relieved With Antacids
Many people believe that taking antacids or drinking milk is an effective treatment for peptic ulcers. While antacids can temporarily relive the pain and discomfort associated with peptic ulcer, they cannot heal an ulcer. Before taking antacids or drinking milk as a treatment for your ulcer, it is important to remember:
- If your ulcer is caused by the bacterium H. pylori, antacid are not an effective treatment. Only antibiotics can treat H. pylori.
- Drinking milk can produce stomach acid and in reality, worsen the pain of an ulcer.
Stomach Pain That Comes and Goes For Several Weeks
Often times, stomach pain that is associated with peptic ulcers is not constant. This pain or burning in the stomach can come and go, occurring on and off for several weeks. The important thing to remember is that peptic ulcers can be treated depending upon the cause. Pain associated with peptic ulcers can get worse or more pronounced due to:
- Eating spicy food
- An empty stomach
- Drinking alcohol
- Drinking milk
- Drinking coffee
Peptic ulcer is a common condition that occurs within the lining of the stomach or in the small intestine. The signs and symptoms of a peptic ulcer can mimic those of many other conditions. If you are experiencing any symptoms of peptic ulcer, contact your doctor for a proper diagnosis. Peptic ulcers are typically caused by the stomach bacterium H. Pylori or by an extended regimen of prescription NSAIDs. In most cases, peptic ulcers are treatable.