A stomach ulcer is an open sore along the stomach’s lining. It typically causes pain that feels like a dull gnawing or burning sensation.
A stomach ulcer, which people may also call a gastric or peptic ulcer, is an open sore that forms on the stomach lining. Ulcers can also form in part of the small intestine, just below the stomach. Medical professionals refer to these sorts of ulcers as duodenal ulcers.
Read on to learn more about what stomach ulcer pain may feel like, as well as other symptoms and treatment options.
The most common symptom of a stomach ulcer is pain. This pain may feel like a sensation that is:
The pain that a stomach ulcer causes
The pain that stomach ulcers cause may come and go. Sometimes a person may feel relief from symptoms for a while if they take antacid medication. Some people may notice that their ulcer pain occurs or increases several hours after meals or when they try to sleep.
Stomach ulcer pain may last minutes or hours. In some people, it may come and go for days or weeks. Certain foods and environmental factors may also trigger a person’s ulcer pain, including:
- acidic foods
- spicy foods
- drinking alcohol
In addition to the pain present in one spot, there are several additional symptoms that stomach ulcers may cause. These may include:
- acid reflux
- unwanted weight loss
- bloody or black, tarry stools
- feeling full after eating only a little
- feeling uncomfortably full after meals
- chest pain
- frequent diarrhea, if an H. pylori bacterial infection is the cause
Stomach ulcer treatment will vary depending on the underlying cause. A doctor will confirm the diagnosis of a stomach ulcer by taking a complete medical history, and when necessary, performing diagnostic tests, such as an upper endoscopy or tissue biopsy.
If a doctor suspects a person may have a stomach ulcer caused by taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), they may prescribe a different type of pain reliever, such as acetaminophen.
Should a doctor think that the bacteria H. pylori is the cause of the stomach ulcer, the doctor may recommend a test, such as a urea breath test or stool test, to try to detect if an H. pylori infection is present.
After health professionals determine the cause of a person’s ulcer, they can treat the symptoms, including the pain, by protecting the ulcer from acids during the healing process. They may prescribe medications, such as:
- Antibiotics: Doctors will prescribe antibiotics, such as amoxicillin, clarithromycin, and metronidazole, if an H. pylori bacterial infection is causing the ulcer.
- Antacids: Antacids, such as alginate, is available to purchase over the counter.
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): PPIs can help with ulcers that occur due to H. pylori bacterial infections by lowering the acid content in the stomach.
- H2 blockers: H2 blockers, or H2 receptor antagonists, also help reduce stomach acid production by inhibiting the amount of histamine the body produces.
Symptoms typically resolve after treatment. However, health professionals recommend continuing treatment even after symptoms relieve, particularly if an H. pylori infection is the cause.
Anyone recovering from a stomach ulcer should also try to avoid drinking alcohol, smoking, and eating or drinking anything that may trigger ulcer pain while treatment continues.
If someone is experiencing stomach ulcers that continue to reappear, or if their ulcer does not heal, bleeds, or interrupts digestive transit, their doctor may recommend surgery.
Surgical options to treat stomach ulcers include:
- removal of the ulcer
- tying off any bleeding blood vessels
- grafting tissue from another site on the body onto the ulcer
- vagotomy, snipping the vagus nerve, which controls stomach acid production
Complications due to stomach ulcers, such as perforation or bleeding, are not common. Therefore, anyone experiencing any of these complications should seek urgent medical attention.
Alongside medical treatments for some ulcers, people can also try home remedies, including:
- probiotic supplements
- fermented foods
- ginger or ginger supplements
- aloe vera
- fruits containing flavonoids, such as blueberries, cherries, citrus fruits, or apples
Stomach ulcers, which health professionals may also call gastric or peptic ulcers, develop along the lining of the stomach, causing pain that feels like burning or gnawing.
People can treat stomach ulcers with medications, such as antibiotics or antacids. For some people, surgical interventions may be necessary.
People can also try treating stomach ulcers with home remedies, including probiotics, fermented foods, and supplements, such as turmeric or ginger.