What is a Stomach Ulcer?

If your gastric acid eats the protective stomach lining, a stomach ulcer occurs. As a result, gastric acid causes open sores that bleed in your stomach. One type of peptic ulcer disease is stomach ulcers and this condition can be painful. Fortunately, several treatment options are available for this condition. However, stomach ulcers should be taken seriously.

What is a Stomach Ulcer?

Gastric ulcer is another name for stomach ulcer and it is an open sore that appears in the stomach lining. An ulcer may also develop in the duodenum the first part of the small intestine. When the protective mucous lining of the stomach and duodenum are eroded, the gastric acid begins to eat away your stomach and duodenum walls. That’s why it results in open sores that are continually irritated by the acid. It is not advised to leave this condition untreated because it may result in certain complications including internal bleeding. If you notice stomach pain or cramps, it is recommended to see a doctor right away.

How Common are Peptic Ulcers?

This health condition is considered very common in Western countries. In the U.S. about 4 million people suffer from this disease per year. Anyway, this condition can be easy to treat.


Some mild peptic ulcers may be asymptomatic. However, in severe cases, an individual may experience the following symptoms. For example:

  • Burning stomach pain
  • Bloated stomach
  • Indigestion (fatty foods)
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

If you experience any of the symptoms listed above or any other effects (such as stomach cramps), discuss it with your healthcare professional.


Mostly, peptic ulcers occur due to two common causes. Examples include:

  • Overuse of NSAIDs – These are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that are usually used to treat pain. Ibuprofen, Naproxen, and Aspirin are some examples of NSAIDs. About 30% of people who use NSAIDs regularly can develop peptic ulcers and 50% of gastric ulcers can occur in those who misuse these medicines.
  • Pylori Infection – This is a common bacterial infection that lives in about half of people worldwide. This bacteria lives in the stomach and sometimes it multiplies and eats the stomach lining causing peptic ulcers and chronic inflammation. However, in some people, it seems to not cause any problems and it is due to the immune system that helps fight against this bacteria.

Check below some less-common causes of peptic ulcers:

  • Severe Physiological Stress – Stress ulcers in the stomach usually occur due to severe injuries, burns, or illness. This type of stress tends to change your body’s PH balance, which leads to an elevated level of stomach acid.
  • Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome – It is a very rare condition that provokes your stomach to produce increased levels of gastric acid.

What Does a Stomach Ulcer Feel Like?

The most common symptoms of a gastric ulcer are pain and indigestion. It usually feels like gnawing or burning inside your stomach. In most cases, symptoms can improve if you eat, drink, or use antacids (drugs used to decrease gastric acid production). It is not advised to have meals at night.

What’s the Difference Between Ulcer Pain and Heartburn?

Ulcer pain and heartburn are very similar feelings and usually are described as a burning king of pain. Commonly, ulcer pain is localized in the stomach or small intestine but heartburn tends to be higher in the chest. In any case, some people may experience both ulcer pain and heartburn at the same time.

Additionally, mostly, acid reflux is the main cause of heartburn. Therefore, acid reflux travels back up your esophagus. As a result, you may feel burning sensations in your stomach and esophagus. In any case, if you experience heartburn it does not mean that you do not have an ulcer at the same time. Moreover, acid reflux may be a symptom of a stomach ulcer.

Furthermore, smoking and alcoholic drinks may worsen ulcer symptoms. Avoid tobacco and alcoholic products while experiencing peptic ulcers.


If you leave a peptic ulcer untreated, it may lead to unwanted outcomes. Examples include:

  • Internal bleeding (a slow-bleeding ulcer may also cause anemia)
  • Perforation (this complication may also cause peritonitis and sepsis)
  • Obstruction
  • Stomach cancer (H. pylori can contribute to gastric cancer, however, this can occur in rare cases)

In addition, check below some symptoms of a bleeding ulcer:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Blood in your poop
  • Bloody vomit

For more details discuss with your physician.


Healthcare providers will ask about your symptoms and medical history. Thereafter, they can perform some tests that will help to diagnose a peptic ulcer. Check below some examples:

  • Endoscopy – This is a test that doctors perform to see inside your digestive tract and to take a sample to analyze in the laboratory. Endoscopy is done by a thin tube with a small camera that is attached down your throat.

Imaging Tests help to look inside the stomach and small intestine. For example:

  • CT Scan – If is needed to check your organs in detail, your healthcare professional may perform a CT scan. Thereafter, you will lie on a table inside a scanner machine. Additionally, you may have a drink or injection with contrast fluid because it can help to show up better your organs in images.
  • Upper GI Series – This test involves X-rays to examine the duodenum and stomach. Your doctor will give you to swallow a fluid called barium. This fluid helps to coat your esophagus, stomach, and duodenum, which is needed to show up better in black-and-white images.

Additionally, doctors may order to do some tests for H. pylori infection. Examples include:

  • Blood Test – The quickest and easiest way to test H. pylori infections is a blood test. It shows antibodies to the bacteria.
  • Stool Test – This test also can identify if you have H. pylori.
  • Breath Test – In this test, physicians can diagnose an active H. pylori infection. In addition, you can have a flavored solution that contains an organic chemical called urea. If you have this bacteria, urea will break down and convert into carbon dioxide.


Usually, the treatment varies from person to person because it depends on the response to treatment, the severity of the condition, age, weight, and others. Check below some examples:

  • Histamine Receptor Blockers (H2 blockers) – These medicines help to block stomach acid production. Famotidine, Cimetidine, and Nizatidine are some examples of H2 blockers.
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) – PPIs decrease stomach acid production and help to protect the stomach lining. Esomeprazole, Dexlansoprazole, Lansoprazole, Omeprazole, Pantoprazole, and Rabeprazole are some examples of Proton Pump Inhibitors.
  • Antibiotics – Physicians usually prescribe a combination of antibiotics that help to kill the bacteria. For example Tetracycline, Metronidazole, Clarithromycin, and Amoxicillin.
  • Antacids – This category consists of nonprescription medicines that are used to neutralize gastric acid. Talk with your physician if you intend to use antacids because they may interact with certain antibiotics.
  • Cytoprotective Agents – Sucralfate and Misoprostol are some examples of this category of drugs. They also are used to protect the stomach lining.
  • Bismuth Subsalicylate – Other over-the-counter drugs used to protect ulcers from gastric acid.

In most cases, peptic ulcer complications can be treated with medicines. However, there are cases when medicines are not enough and surgery is required. For example, ulcers that are bleeding, or have perforated your stomach or intestinal walls can be repaired without surgery. Ask your doctor if you have any questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a diet required while treating a gastric ulcer?

Yes, it is advised to have a diet because some foods may worsen your peptic ulcer or you may notice delayed healing effects. You can include in your diet grains, dairy, and meat products. Additionally, avoid alcohol and caffeine while treating this condition.

How can I prevent peptic ulcers?

Check below some tips that may help to prevent this health condition:

  • Decrease NSAID use
  • Reduce other irritants (such as smoking, alcohol use, caffeine, and others)
  • It is advised to take an H. pylori breath test to verify if you have an overgrowth of the bacteria

Consult with your healthcare professional for more details.

How soon after treatment will I feel better?

It is important to follow the doctor’s recommendation exactly, to treat your condition fast and safely. If you finished the treatment, you should consult your doctor to determine if the ulcers and infection are gone. However, in surgical cases, it may take a few weeks more than treatment with medicines to feel better.

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