Stomach Ulcers: Major Causes and Symptoms

Painful lesions on the stomach wall, Stomach ulcers develop when the thick coating of mucus (Also known as the stomach’s defense mechanism1) that shields your stomach lining from the digestive juices is removed. This causes the gastrointestinal acids2 to nibble away at the gut’s lining tissues, resulting in an ulcer. Stomach ulcers are commonly referred to as gastric ulcers.

Although stomach ulcers are relatively treatable, they can develop serious complications if not treated properly.

1. Underlying Cause Of Stomach Ulcers

What Causes Stomach Ulcers?
  • Stomach ulcers occur due to h. pylori bacteria.
  • Protracted use of a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication called aspirin or ibuprofen.
  • Zollinger-Ellison syndrome3 is a condition that causes stomach and intestine ulcers by boosting the body’s production of stomach acid.

This condition is thought to be responsible for fewer than 1% of all peptic ulcer diseases.4

2. Symptoms Of Stomach Ulcers

Stomach ulcers are connected with a range of symptoms. The ulcer’s severity determines the degree of the symptoms.

Burning pain or discomfort in the center of your stomach, between your chest and navel button, is by far the most frequent symptom. When your stomach is empty, the discomfort is usually more acute, and it can last anywhere from a few moments to many hours.

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Image by Robystarm from Pixabay

2.1. Stomach Ulcers Can Cause The Following Signs And Symptoms

1. Dark color vomits that look like blood vomits and coffee grounds
2. Acid reflux
3. Bloating
4. Burning sensation in the chest
5. Gnawing pain in the stomach
6. Feeling full easily
7. Dark Stools
8. Anemia
9. Can’t eat because of pain
10. Pain gets reduced after drinking antacids or pain relievers.
11. Weight loss
12. Nauseatic feeling

If you have any signs of a stomach ulcer, consult your doctor or get urgent medical advice. Even if the discomfort is little, ulcers can worsen if not addressed. Ulcers that bleed profusely might be fatal.

3. Diagnosis Of Stomach Ulcers

Your indications and the severity of your ulcer will determine your testing and treatment options. Your doctor will evaluate your medical records, signs, and any prescriptions or over-the-counter drugs you’re taking to determine if you have a stomach ulcer.

A blood, feces, or breathalyzer test may be done to screen out Helicobacter pylori infection. A breath test requires you to sip a transparent liquid and then breathe into a bag which is then sealed. If H. pylori are detected, the carbon dioxide levels in the breath sample will be higher than normal.

The following tests and methods are used to detect stomach ulcers:

  • A creamy white fluid (barium) is swallowed, covering your upper gastrointestinal system and allowing your surgeon to examine your gut and small bowel on X-rays.
  • Endoscopy involves inserting a tiny, illuminated tube via your mouth, entering your gut and the first portion of your small intestine. This test is used to check for ulcers, blood, and any aberrant tissue.
  • Gastrointestinal biopsy: A sample of stomach tissue is extracted and sent to a lab for analysis.

Ulcers in the stomach and duodenum5 can cause pain in various regions of the abdomen. Because there are so many reasons for stomach discomfort, a range of tests will typically be ordered.

If the doctor suspects H. pylori for your complaints, you can get the following testing to determine or check that out:

  • A blood test is required. The presence of specific infection-fighting cells might indicate an infection with H. pylori.
  • A stool antigen test is performed. A stool sample is submitted to a lab for examination in this test. The test searches for specific H. pylori-related proteins in the stool.
  • A breathalyzer test for urea. A urea breath test is taking a tablet with a specific urea composition. You breathe into a collecting bag before and after ingesting the medication, and your co2 levels are recorded. The urea in the tablet is decomposed into a form of co2 that may be identified when H. pylori are detected.

4. Who Has A Higher Risk Of Developing Ulcers?

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Image by u_i64sn07nku from Pixabay

While doctors frequently prescribe Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for illnesses like osteoarthritis or joint pain, they can also raise your chance of getting peptic ulcers.

The following medicines may raise your chance of developing gastric, duodenum, or bleeding ulcers:

  • Coagulation factors such as warfarin
  • Clopidogrel  selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
  • Specific chemotherapy medicines
  • Osteoporosis therapies such as alendronate (Fosamax)
  • Risedronate (Actonel) serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

Other variables that have been linked to the development of gastric and duodenal ulcers include:

  • People who drink alcohol.
  • Having a history of gastric ulcers.
  • Risk Factors are high for people from the age of 70 or older.
  • Serious damage or bodily trauma as a result of smoking.
  • People with digestive and kidney diseases.

It’s a common misconception that spicy foods cause or enhance the risk of ulcers. However, certain meals might irritate the painful sores in the stomach and make ulcers worse in certain people.

5. Treatment Of Stomach Ulcers

The severity of your symptoms and the reasons for your gastric and duodenal ulcers will determine how you are treated. Your doctor may give histamine receptor blockers or proton pump inhibitors to lower the amount of acid in your stomach and preserve the lining. Preserving the mucus line is very important, and only then do ulcers heal.

Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics, proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), and other medicines to combat H. pylori infections and aid recovery. These medicines include mucosal protection agents, which help preserve the mucus lining of your stomach.

If NSAIDs cause your peptic ulcer, you’ll probably be told to cut back or stop taking them.

Treat pain with the help of a pain reliever. If the ulcer is bleeding continuously, your doctor can use specific instruments to stop it during the EGD procedure using an endoscope.

If medicine and endoscopic treatment don’t work, your doctor may suggest surgery. It is a medical emergency if the ulcer gets deep enough to create a hole in the stomach or duodenal wall, and surgery is typically required to address the problem.

5.1. Non-surgical Treatment

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Photo by Roberto Sorin on Unsplash

Antibiotics and proton pump inhibitors will be required if H. pylori cause your stomach ulcer. PPIs inhibit the production of acid by stomach cells.

In addition to these, your doctor may recommend the following treatments:

  • H2 receptor antagonists are drugs that block acid production while also blocking H2 receptors.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs should be avoided at all cost
  • probiotics for endoscopic follow-up (useful bacteria that may have a role in killing off H. pylori)
  • Bismuth dietary supplement

With therapy, the symptoms of an ulcer may go away fast. Even though your symptoms resolve, you must continue taking any medicine your doctor has recommended. This is especially crucial when dealing with H. pylori infections since all germs must be removed.

Side-effects showed by medications used for the treatment of stomach ulcers:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Sharp pain in the abdomen
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches

These adverse effects are usually only present for a short time. If any of these side effects are causing you a lot of pain, talk to your doctor about switching medications.

5.2. Surgical Treatment

A severe stomach ulcer may necessitate surgery in extremely rare situations. This may have been the case with ulcers that:

  • Tears appear through the stomach
  • Internal bleeding
  • Returning open sores or ulcers appear again
  • Gastric Obstruction (Blocking food from traveling from the stomach to the small intestine)
  • It doesn’t heal

Surgical procedures may include:

  • The ulcer is completely removed.
  • Patching a hole in the intestines using tissue from another region of the body above the ulcer’s location.
  • Securing a bleeding artery.
  • To decrease the formation of stomach acid, the nerve supply to the stomach is cut off.

6. What Is Duodenal Ulcer?

A peptic ulcer in the first section of the small intestine is known as a duodenal ulcer (duodenum). A gastroesophageal ulcer is a kind of esophageal ulcer that develops in the lower portion of the esophagus. Exposed sores inside the stomach lining and the upper section of your small intestine are known as peptic ulcer disease.

6.1. Difference Between Stomach Ulcers And Duodenal Ulcers?

Understanding Stomach and Duodenal Ulcers

Peptic ulcers are divided into two types: gastric and duodenal ulcers. A peptic ulcer is a sore opening on the stomach’s inner lining, also known as a gastric ulcer, or on the upper section of the small intestine, called the duodenal ulcer.

Peptic ulcers, which are open sores inside the digestive system lining, include gastric and duodenal ulcers. Stomach ulcers develop in the stomach lining. The duodenum wall, which is the upper section of the small intestine, develops duodenal ulcers.

One or both types of ulcers can happen at the same time in a person. The gastroduodenal syndrome refers to the presence of both kinds.

7. How Can Stomach Ulcers Be Prevented?

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Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

Although you might not have been able to eliminate your chance of having an ulcer, a serious complication can be reduced; there are steps you can do to reduce your danger and avoid it:

  • Whether you’re taking NSAIDs regularly, cutting back, or switching to another medicine.
  • Take Analgesics with meals or medicines that safeguard your stomach lining if you must.
  • Avoid smoking since it slows recovery and increases your chance of gut cancers.
  • If you’ve been diagnosed with H. pylori, make sure you consume all of the prescribed antibiotics. If you don’t finish the course, the germs will remain in the system.
  • Make a conscious effort to boost your physical exercise. Workouts can assist in stimulating the immune system and reduce inflammation.

7.1. When To Visit The Doctors?

Call your doctor if you suspect you have a stomach ulcer. You may talk about your common symptom and therapy choices together.

Without a diagnosis, ulcers and pylori bacterium could indeed cause life-threatening bleeding from the peptic ulcer disease site permeation, which also occurs whenever the ulcer penetrates the digestive tract wall and into another part of the body, including the pancreas perforation, that also occurs whenever the ulcer generates an opening in the gastrointestinal system wall obstruction, which occurs when the ulcer creates a hole in the digestive tract wall which can be potentially life-threatening.

7.1. Some Home Remedies To Prevent Stomach Ulcers

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Photo by Daily Nouri on Unsplash

In addition to nutritious diet meals, the following products may help mitigate Helicobacter pylori symptoms and prevent developing stomach ulcers. These remedies, however, are not meant to take the place of prescribed drugs or your existing treatment plan. They are as follows:

  • Probiotics
  • Honey
  • Low Dose Aspirin
  • Certain foods such as chicken, fish, and eggs for glutamine.

The doctor might have recommendations for things you may do at the house to minimize ulcer pain. Consider discussing these organic and home treatments for ulcers with your doctor.

  • A Balanced Diet

It was formerly considered that ulcers may be caused by a poor diet which is not the case now. Although the foods you consume will neither create nor cure a stomach ulcer, we know that eating a healthy diet can improve your digestive system and general health.

On average, eating a diet rich in fruit and veggies, and fiber is a good idea.

However, it’s conceivable that some meals help in the elimination of Helicobacter pylori. Meals that may aid in the battle against H. pylori or the growth of the body’s beneficial bacteria include:

  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Apples
  • Olive Oil
  • Blueberries
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Radishes

Furthermore, because people with stomach ulcers are more likely to develop acid reflux illness, it’s best to avoid hot and sour meals while the ulcer heals.

8. Conclusion

A stomach ulcer, also known as a peptic ulcer, is a sore or lesion that forms on the lining of the stomach, small intestine, or esophagus. These ulcers can cause pain, discomfort, and various other symptoms.

The primary cause of stomach ulcers is the infection with a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). Other factors that can contribute to ulcer formation include prolonged use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, and stress.

Common symptoms of a stomach ulcer include burning or gnawing abdominal pain, bloating, heartburn, nausea, vomiting (which may contain blood), loss of appetite, and unintentional weight loss. Some individuals may not experience any symptoms. Stomach ulcers can be diagnosed through various methods, including endoscopy (a procedure using a thin, flexible tube with a camera to examine the digestive tract), blood tests to detect H. pylori infection and imaging tests like X-rays or CT scans.

Treatment typically involves a combination of approaches, including antibiotics to eradicate H. pylori if present, medications to reduce stomach acid production (proton pump inhibitors or H2 blockers), avoiding NSAIDs, managing stress, and making dietary and lifestyle changes.

Clean your hand thoroughly with soap and warm water regularly to avoid the spread of bacteria that might cause a stomach ulcer. Also, make sure that you disinfect all of your food well before cooking it.


1. How long does it take for a stomach ulcer to heal?

A: The healing time for a stomach ulcer varies depending on its size, underlying causes, and how well the recommended treatments are followed. With appropriate treatment, smaller ulcers can often heal within a few weeks to a couple of months.

2. Can stomach ulcers recur?

A: Yes, stomach ulcers can recur if the underlying causes are not addressed or if proper precautions are not taken. Continuing to take medications as prescribed, managing stress, and avoiding risk factors can help prevent recurrence.

3. Can diet affect stomach ulcers?

A: Certain dietary factors can influence the development and management of stomach ulcers. Spicy foods, acidic foods, caffeine, and alcohol may aggravate symptoms. A balanced diet rich in fiber and nutrient-dense foods can support healing and overall gastrointestinal health.

Read more

  1. Jeong, Hye‐Jin, et al. “Organoid‐Based Human Stomach Micro‐Physiological System to Recapitulate the Dynamic Mucosal Defense Mechanism.” Advanced Science 10.27 (2023): 2300164. ↩︎
  2. Bergman, E. N. “Energy contributions of volatile fatty acids from the gastrointestinal tract in various species.” Physiological reviews 70.2 (1990): 567-590. ↩︎
  3. Hung, Patrick D., Mitchell L. Schubert, and Anastasios A. Mihas. “Zollinger-Ellison syndrome.” Current treatment options in gastroenterology 6 (2003): 163-170. ↩︎
  4. Lanas, Angel, and Francis KL Chan. “Peptic ulcer disease.” The Lancet 390.10094 (2017): 613-624. ↩︎
  5. Macagno, Enzo O., and J. Christensen. “Fluid mechanics of the duodenum.” Annual review of fluid mechanics 12.1 (1980): 139-158. ↩︎

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