Stomach Ulcer: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Medical review: Dr. Clarisse Bezerra
Family Doctor
May 2022

A stomach ulcer is a wound that forms in the tissue that lines the stomach. It can be caused by several factors, but it is more common due to poor eating habits, prolonged use of oral anti-inflammatory medication or infection by Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria.

The presence of a stomach ulcer can lead to symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting, especially after eating. It is also often referred to as a gastric or peptic ulcer. 

Usually, this condition isn't serious but it needs to be treated as soon as possible, to prevent the ulcer from increasing in size, which can worsen symptoms and increase the risk of complications such as bleeding or gastric perforation.

Main symptoms

The main symptoms of gastric ulcers are:

  • Strong abdominal pain, like a stabbing pain
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bloating
  • Weight loss

Symptoms of gastric ulcer sometimes get worse after eating.

In addition to a gastric ulcer, a duodenal ulcer may also form. This type of ulcer is located in the first portion of the intestines, and it causes symptoms during periods of fasting or during the night. 

Diagnosis for stomach ulcers

Diagnosis is usually done by a gastroenterologist or a family doctor. The ulcer is first suspected based on the presenting symptoms, and then testing can be ordered to confirm it. Tests like an endoscopy can help the doctor look inside the stomach, while a urea breath test can identifies the presence of H. Pylori infection.

Learn more about H. Pylori infection, its symptoms and treatment options.

Possible causes

A stomach ulcer forms when the stomach is vulnerable to its own acidity. This may happen due to:

  • Genetic factors;
  • Use of medication that affects the stomach wall, such as anti-inflammatory medication or acetylsalicylic acid;
  • H. pylori infection, a type of bacteria that multiplies in the stomach and weakens its protective barrier;
  • Alcoholic drinks and cigarettes;
  • Excessive stress.

In addition, a diet that is unbalanced, and rich in fats, sugars, and inflammatory foods, such as caffeine or pepper, can aggravate symptoms and other gastric problems, such as reflux. 

Treatment options

Treatment for stomach ulcers is normally done with medication that decreases stomach acidity, such as antacids or acid inhibitors - omeprazole, pantoprazole, lansoprazole or esomeprazole. The doctor may also recommend analgesics to manage pain as needed. If an infection caused by H. pylori is confirmed, it may also be necessary to use antibiotics, such as amoxicillin or clarithromycin. 

During treatment, it's important to maintain a balanced diet, by focusing on fruits, cooked vegetables, grains, light dairy, bread, and white meats. You should avoid very hot food, alcoholic drinks, sodas, sandwiches, fast food, deep-fried foods, and sweet foods. See a diet plan that can help treat a stomach ulcer.

Home remedies

An excellent home remedy for a stomach ulcer is drinking pure potato juice every day, preferably while fasting. Potatoes are great natural antacids that can balance gastric acidity and help with stomach ulcers. 

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Atualizado por Tua Saude editing team, em May de 2022. Medical review por Dr. Clarisse Bezerra - Family Doctor, em May de 2021.

References

  • MSD MANUALS - VERSÃO PARA PROFISSIONAIS DE SAÚDE. Doença ulcerosa péptica. 2018. Available on: <https://www.msdmanuals.com/pt-pt/profissional/dist%C3%BArbios-gastrointestinais/gastrite-e-doen%C3%A7a-ulcerosa-p%C3%A9ptica/doen%C3%A7a-ulcerosa-p%C3%A9ptica>. Access in 18 Mar 2020
  • AMB e CFM. Úlcera péptica. Projeto diretrizes. Disponível em: https://diretrizes.amb.org.br/_BibliotecaAntiga/ulcera-peptica.pdf . Acesso em: 18/03/2020.
Show more references
  • BITTENCOURT, Paulo F. S. et al .. Úlcera péptica gastroduodenal e infecção pelo Helicobacter pylori na criança e adolescente. . J. Pediatr. (Rio J.). v. 82, n. 5, p. 325-334, 2006. Acesso em: 18/03/2020. Disponível em: <http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0021-75572006000600004&lng=en&nrm=iso>.
Medical review:
Dr. Clarisse Bezerra
Family Doctor
Dr. Bezerra possesses a medical degree and specializes in family medicine. She is licensed to practice under CRM-CE licence #16976.