What You Need to Know About the Symptoms of Stomach Ulcers

January 16, 2023
William Hanner D.O.

You had something to eat, and now you feel uncomfortable due to stomach pain, nausea or acid reflux. Does that mean you have a gastric ulcer? It is certainly common for patients to wonder this, especially when symptoms like these happen frequently and you do not know what is causing them. 

Improving your wellness starts with understanding what symptoms are related to stomach ulcers, as well as their causes and how our caring team works with you to arrive at a wellness plan that fits you personally. Let us take a closer look at 10 signs an ulcer may be the culprit of your condition.

What is a Stomach Ulcer?

Also known as gastric ulcers, stomach ulcers are sores that form on the delicate lining of the stomach. They are a type of peptic ulcer, a term which refers to sores that affect the peptic region of your body—the stomach and small intestines where digestive acids are at work to break down food to fuel your body. Ulcers can form in the stomach itself, or in part of the intestine nearest the stomach, called the duodenum. 

Stomach acid is strong in order to do its job of digesting food, and normally, the stomach’s lining is safeguarded from the effects of this acid through a thick, healthy layer of protective mucus. But when gastric acid is increased too much, or when the protective layer of mucus has thinned too much, such as through the overuse of certain medications such as nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS like ibuprofen), the lining of youther stomach can become worn down by the acid, and ulcers can form.

The good news is that ulcers can be treated. But they should be addressed as early as possible, before the problems they cause become severe. Whether the issue is a gastric ulcer or a duodenal ulcer, symptoms and treatment are similar. Here is what to look for.

Common Stomach Ulcer Symptoms and Causes

So, are those troublesome peptic ulcer symptoms you have been dealing with related to an ulcer? First, let us take a look at what commonly happens when someone has a peptic ulcer:

  1. Pain

By far, the most common signal that your body sends when you have a gastric ulcer is pain. This burning (or sometimes dull) pain tends to be located in the middle of the abdomen, between the chest and belly button. 

It is usually at its strongest when your stomach is empty, such as at night, as any stomach acid affects your ulcer rather than being directed toward digestion. The pain may improve when you eat, drink, or take antacids, or it may not. Also, the pain may come and go, lasting a few minutes to as long as hours.

  1. Nausea

Because a stomach ulcer is associated with acid in the stomach that creates pain, it is a common symptom to experience nausea, and even vomiting. As the ulcer grows worse, you may notice blood in the vomit—which appears either red blood or as something that resembles coffee grounds. Vomiting blood is a definite sign you should seek a physician’s care.

  1. Eating Problems

As a result of the pain, nausea and vomiting, it is not uncommon for those with ulcers to have a lack of appetite as well. You may not wish to eat because you are in pain. Or, you may have an appetite, yet find yourself feeling full more quickly than is normal for you.

  1. Weight Loss

If you are losing weight and you do not have an obvious explanation for it—such as an intentional weight loss plan, increased exercise, or a switch from fatty foods to a more nutritional diet—you should always consult your physician. In the case of an ulcer, the pain, nausea and appetite problems can add up to the unplanned, and even unhealthy, loss of weight. And as ulcers grow worse, a blockage can occur in the stomach or part of the small intestine.

  1. Bloating

Ulcers are often caused by an helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection. These H. pylori bacteria can contaminate food sources. They then end up in the digestive tract, where they can multiply in the small intestine, leading to excessive gassiness and bloating. 

H. pylori can be treated with antibiotics, but it is important to be sure to take the full prescription and undergo further tests, because if the pylori bacteria isn’t completely eradicated, it can multiply again and cause more problems.

  1. Acid reflux

Another ulcer symptom is a common issue for those with gastrointestinal issues—acid reflux, which is when gastric acid sneaks up out of the stomach and into the esophagus. This causes heartburn, which is a burning sensation in the chest. Burping and gassiness can also be symptoms related to acid reflux, and to ulcers.

  1. Anemia

Since ulcers are being continually exposed to a significant amount of acid, the sores do not have a chance to completely heal. They tend to ooze blood, which can lead to anemia. If you are experiencing anemic symptoms, you are likely to feel tired or fatigued. You may have shortness of breath, dizziness, or pale skin.

  1. Unhealthy stools

A bleeding ulcer will even show signs of its existence in bloody excrement. If you notice that your stools look abnormal, especially if they appear dark and tar-like in color and texture, see your doctor to have a stool test.

How Ulcers Are Treated

The severity and frequency of ulcer symptoms may be related to how advanced the ulcer is. Keep in mind that even if your symptoms seem relatively mild right now, it is a good idea to consult with a physician for an assessment. If not treated, stomach ulcers can grow worse and lead to complications. Bleeding ulcers can become life-threatening.

If your medical professional determines that you may be suffering from an ulcer, various tests may be performed, such as a stool test to look for H. pylori bacteria, as well as a barium swallow test or endoscopy, which allow the doctor to examine the interior of the stomach and intestines for telltale sores, bleeding, and abnormal tissue.

The plan of treatment for an ulcer will depend on its condition. Many ulcers can be treated with a prescription. Antibiotics may be given to eliminate H. pylori, while stomach acid may be reduced using a medication known as a proton pump inhibitor (PPI). Bleeding ulcers need to be addressed quickly, and often through surgery to repair the damage.

Compassionate Care for Stomach Ulcers in Tulsa

Stomach pain, acid reflux, gastric ulcers, and other gastrointestinal issues are unpleasant, but there are solutions that will help improve how you feel and get you back to your normal routine. If you are experiencing symptoms that you suspect may be related to a stomach ulcer, it is time to find medical answers that help you live your life to the fullest. 

Our caring, experienced healthcare team is here to help you find the most fitting wellness plan for your unique situation. Contact us to schedule a consultation and begin your journey to greater wellness

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