Stomach Ulcer: Causes, Types, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

Also known as gastric ulcers, they are painful ulcers in the stomach lining.

Stomach ulcers occur when you reduce the thick mucus layer that protects your stomach from digestive juices. This allows digestive acids to eat the tissues that line the stomach and cause an ulcer.

Stomach ulcers can be easily cured but can become severe without proper treatment.

What causes a stomach ulcer?

Stomach ulcers are almost always caused by one of the following reasons:

  • An infection with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori)
  • Long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (aine), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen.
  • Rarely, a condition known as Zollinger-Ellison syndrome can cause stomach and intestinal ulcers by increasing the body’s production of acid.


Stomach ulcers are a type of peptic ulcerPeptic ulcers are ulcers that affect both the stomach and the small intestine.

There are two other types:

  • Esophageal ulcers: from within the esophagus.
  • Duodenal ulcers:  occur in the upper part of the small intestine, known as the duodenum.

Both ulcers share similar characteristics but are identified by their location in the body.


Symptoms of stomach ulcer

Several symptoms are associated with stomach ulcers. The severity of the symptoms depends on the severity of the ulcer.

The most common symptom is a burning or pain sensation in the middle of your abdomen between the chest and the navel. Usually, the pain will be more intense when the stomach is empty and can last from a few minutes to several hours.

Other common signs and symptoms of ulcers include:

  • Dull pain in the stomach.
  • Weightloss.
  • Not wanting to eat because of the pain.
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Swelling.
  • Feeling easily full
  • Belching or acid reflux.
  • Acidity (burning sensation in the chest).
  • Pain that may improve when you eat, drink, or take antacids.
  • Anemia (symptoms may include tiredness, difficulty breathing, or paler skin).
  • Dark, tarry stools.

Talk to your doctor if you have any symptoms of a stomach ulcer. Although the discomfort may be mild, the ulcers may worsen if left untreated. Hemorrhagic ulcers can be life-threatening.


The diagnosis and treatment will depend on your symptoms and the severity of your ulcer.

To diagnose a stomach ulcer, your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms and any prescription or over-the-counter medications.

To rule out H. pylori infection, a blood, stool, or breath test may be ordered. With a breath test, you will be instructed to take a clear liquid and breathe in a bag, which is then sealed. If H. pylori are present, the breath sample contains higher than normal carbon dioxide levels.

Other tests and procedures used to diagnose stomach ulcers include:

  • Barium swallowing: you drink a thick white liquid (barium) that lines your upper gastrointestinal tract and helps your doctor see the stomach and small intestine on x-rays.
  • Endoscopy (EGD): A thin, lighted tube is inserted through the mouth and into the stomach and the first part of the small intestine.
  • Endoscopic biopsy: a piece of tissue is removed from the stomach so that it can be analyzed in a laboratory.

Stomach ulcer treatment

The treatment will vary according to the cause of your ulcer. Most ulcers can be treated with a prescription from your doctor, but in rare cases, surgery may be necessary.

It is essential to treat an ulcer promptly. Talk to your doctor to discuss a treatment plan.

If you have an actively bleeding ulcer, you will likely be hospitalized for intensive treatment with endoscopy and intravenous ulcer medications. It may also require a blood transfusion.

Non-surgical treatment

If your ulcer results from H. pylori, you will need antibiotics and medications called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). PPIs block stomach cells that produce acid.

In addition to these treatments, your doctor may also recommend:

  • H2 receptor blockers (drugs that also block the production of acid).
  • Stop the use of all NSAIDs.
  • Follow-up endoscopy.
  • Probiotics (beneficial bacteria that may have a role in eliminating H. pylori).
  • Bismuth supplement.

The symptoms of an ulcer can disappear quickly with the treatment. However, even if your symptoms go away, you should continue taking any medication prescribed by your doctor.

Side effects of medications used to treat stomach ulcers may include:

  • Nausea.
  • Dizziness.
  • Headaches.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Abdominal pain.

These side effects are usually temporary. If any of these side effects cause extreme discomfort, talk to your doctor about changing your medication.

Surgical treatment

In sporadic cases, a complicated stomach ulcer will require surgery. This may be the case of ulcers that:

  • They keep coming back.
  • No sanan.
  • They bleed.
  • They tear through the stomach.
  • They prevent food from flowing from the stomach to the small intestine.

Surgery may include:

  • Elimination of the complete ulcer.
  • Take tissue from another part of the intestines and apply a patch to the ulcer site.
  • Tie a bleeding artery.
  • Cut the supply of nerves to the stomach to reduce the production of stomach acid.

Healthy diet

In the past, it was thought that diet could cause ulcers. Now we know that this is not true. While your food does not cause or cure a stomach ulcer, eating a healthy diet can benefit your intestinal tract and overall health.

It is a good idea to eat a diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, and fiber to stimulate the body’s healthy bacteria. For example:

  • Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and radishes.
  • Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and kale.
  • Foods are rich in probiotics, such as sauerkraut, miso, kombucha, and yogurt (especially lactobacillus and Saccharomyces).
  • Apples
  • Cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries.
  • Olive oil.

If you think you have a stomach ulcer, these can be good foods to add to your daily diet. Get more information about foods that may be useful for stomach ulcers and foods that are not.

Home remedies for stomach ulcers

In addition to eating healthy foods, the following items can help reduce the effects of H. pylori, the bacteria responsible for many stomach ulcers. These include:

  • Probiotics
  • Honey.
  • Glutamine (food sources include chicken, fish, eggs, spinach, and cabbage).

It is also possible for your doctor to suggest everything you can do at home to relieve the discomfort caused by the ulcer. You can also talk with your doctor about these natural and home remedies for ulcers.

When should you call or see a doctor?

If you think you have a stomach ulcer, call your doctor. Together they can discuss their symptoms and treatment options.

It is essential to treat a stomach ulcer because, without treatment, ulcers and H. pylori can cause:

  • It was bleeding from the ulcer site, which can be life-threatening.
  • Penetration occurs when the ulcer goes through the digestive tract wall and enters another organ, such as the pancreas.
  • Perforation occurs when the ulcer creates a hole in the digestive tract wall.
  • Obstruction in the digestive tract is due to swelling of inflamed tissues.
  • Stomach cancer is up to six times more likely in people who have H. pylori infections compared to those who do not.

Symptoms of these complications may include those listed below. If you have any of these symptoms, be sure to call your doctor immediately:

  • Weakness.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Vomit or red or black stools.
  • Sudden and sharp pain in your abdomen that does not go away.


To prevent the spread of bacteria that can cause a stomach ulcer, wash your hands with soap and water regularly. Also, properly clean all your food and cook it properly as needed.

To prevent ulcers caused by NSAIDs, stop using these medications (if possible) or limit their use. If you need to take NSAIDs, follow the recommended dose and avoid drinking alcohol while taking these medications.