A peptic ulcer is a break, tear, or hole in the lining of the stomach or duodenum, the opening to the small intestine. The bacteria H. pylori is the most common cause, but they may also develop due to long-term use of medications such as NSAIDs. Stress and spicy foods don’t cause peptic ulcers, but they can make an already painful condition feel much worse. If undiagnosed or untreated, peptic ulcers can have serious complications.
Pain in the Abdomen
Abdominal pain is the most common symptom of a peptic ulcer. Typically, people with gastric or duodenal ulcers experience burning stomach pain between the navel and breast bone that may also extend to the back. Because stomach acid makes the pain worse, this symptom often intensifies when the stomach is empty, either between meals or throughout the night. Antacids can temporarily relieve the pain because they make the juices in the stomach less acidic.
Indigestion can occur for a lot of reasons, including overeating, eating too fast, taking antibiotics, and fatty or spicy foods. It can also be a sign of more serious health conditions. If indigestion occurs more than twice a week or is accompanied by unplanned weight loss, difficulty swallowing, or severe pain, it could be a sign of a peptic ulcer.
Nausea is a common consequence of the digestive system not working properly and can be a symptom of a variety of problems. That said, nausea attributed to a peptic ulcer appears when the stomach is empty, usually first thing in the morning or right before a meal.
Heaviness in the Abdomen
People with peptic ulcers often report a heavy feeling in the abdomen. They may also feel full quickly after a meal. This is often a side effect of indigestion that can accompany peptic ulcers. Due to slow gastric emptying, food and beverages sit in the stomach longer after each meal, creating pressure and fullness.
Peptic ulcers can cause a lot of symptoms that could be mistaken for the flu. Peptic ulcers commonly cause pain at night, which can disrupt sleep, leading to a general feeling of malaise or fatigue during the day. Nausea or fever caused by an ulcer can be mistaken for a virus or infection, as well.
Loss of Appetite
Anyone who has experienced stomach pains knows they can cause a loss of appetite. Most stomach ulcers cause extreme pain, in addition to nausea, slow gastric emptying, and fullness mentioned earlier. While eating may initially relieve pain, the general overall discomfort experienced by someone with peptic ulcers can cause loss of appetite.
People with peptic ulcers may feel full and bloated after a meal, but they may also still feel hungry. This could be due to the brain misinterpreting signals from the stomach, understanding pain caused by the ulcer as hunger pains. Also, people with peptic ulcers may be inclined to eat more since food often decreases the pain temporarily.
Unexpected Weight Loss
People who have peptic ulcers causing a lot of pain, nausea, and fullness may eat less either because they don’t have an appetite or they’re trying to avoid causing more discomfort. They may not even realize that they’re eating significantly less than normal, which can cause rapid and unexpected weight loss.
Abnormally Colored Stool
People with peptic ulcers may notice abnormally colored stools if their ulcer has started to bleed. Blood from a peptic ulcer travels through the duodenum and the rest of the GI tract. This means that bloody stools caused by peptic ulcers appear dark black or tarry since the blood has traveled so far. Anyone experiencing blood in their stool should see their doctor right away.
Blood in Vomit
If someone is experiencing nausea and vomiting with a peptic ulcer and notices that there is red blood present in the vomit, this is a sign that the ulcer is bleeding. Unlike the previous example of blood in the stool, blood that appears in vomit was not digested while traveling through the intestines and still appears bright red. Anyone experiencing blood in their vomit should see a doctor right away.