Symptoms of Peptic Ulcers

Woman with stomach cramps
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Gastric ulcers (those in the stomach) and duodenal ulcers (those in a tube connected to the stomach, called the duodenum) are usually referred to as peptic ulcers. Peptic ulcers can cause a variety of symptoms, and these vary from patient to patient. Some patients with ulcers have minimal, unusual, or even no symptoms at all. Others may have every symptom.

This is why it is very important to consult your doctor if you have any concerns.

It is also important to remember that the symptoms listed below can occur as a result of other conditions, not just duodenal or gastric ulcers. These include gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), chronic dyspepsia without the presence of ulcers (often called non-ulcer or functional dyspepsia), gallbladder disease, liver disease and other disorders. Once again, if you are concerned about your symptoms, it is important that you see your doctor about your stomach problems.

The most common symptom of a peptic ulcer is a gnawing or burning pain in the abdomen between the breastbone and navel. Duodenal ulcers typically cause symptoms 2 to 5 hours after meals when the stomach is empty and can be relieved by eating. Gastric ulcers, on the other hand, are classically made worse by eating. You may experience pain soon after meals, and food won't improve symptoms.

For each, the duration of pain can be from a few minutes to a few hours.

Symptoms That Need Immediate Medical Attention

  • Vomiting blood
  • Vomiting food that was eaten hours or days before
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Nausea
  • Black or tar-like stool (indication that there is blood in the stool)
  • Sudden, severe pain in the abdominal area
  • Pain that radiates to the back
  • Pain that doesn't go away when you take medication
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Unusual weakness, usually because of anemia
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