What is a stomach ulcer?

If you have ever had a stomach ulcer or peptic ulcer, you will know it is a painful affair.

Quick background

A stomach ulcer is a sore that develops on the lining of your oesophagus (the pipe that helps you swallow), your stomach, or your small intestine.


You can imagine a stomach ulcer as an open sore in your esophagus, stomach or small intestine that is constantly being burned by your stomach acid or irritated by the food you eat or drinks you drink.


Ulcers are usually caused when stomach acid damages the lining in your stomach or digestive tract. Other causes include the presence of the bacteria H. pylori, or prolonged use of NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.


There are various other symptoms that include the following:

  • weight loss
  • dull stomach pain
  • losing your appetite due to stomach pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • bloating
  • burping
  • acid reflux
  • bloating
  • increase in pain when eating, drinking or even when taking antacids
  • aneamia (when the ulcer bleeds for a long period) which includes tiredness or paler skin
  • bloody stool
  • bloody vomit

The last three symptoms indicate that you need to see a doctor ASAP!


It is treatable by a medical professional, but first needs a medical diagnosis (please don’t self-diagnose).

If you go to your doctor and he/she suspects you might have an ulcer, he/she will run laboratory tests or some imaging tests (Barium swallow, endoscopy, endoscopic biopsy) to determine whether the bacteria H. pylori is present in your stomach.

*H. pylori has an interesting discovery story, for which Barry J. Marshall and J. Robin Warren won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. You can read more about it here.

This condition can be resolved within a few months with the administration of anti-inflammatory pain-relievers like aspirin (just don’t use aspirin too long, it can also cause an ulcer). Medication to decrease stomach acid production might also be administered by your medical practitioner. If H. pylori is the culprit, antibiotics is also needed.

What is the pain like?

When you have a stomach ulcer or an ulcer in your digestive tract, you can expect to have upper abdominal pain, between your chest and belly button, with a burning sensation.

You expect that the pain will be more intense when your stomach is empty.

The pain and burning can last from minutes to a few hours.

You only need to remember that:

  • These ulcers are open sores in your stomach, esophagus, or small intestine.
  • Acid in your stomach help make ulcers by burning your digestive tract lining.
  • Most ulcers can be cause by H. pylori, but also from prolonged use of pain killers like NSAIDs.
  • A dull or burning pain in your belly, between your chest and belly button, is the most common symptom.
  • Treatment involves lifestyle changes and medicines, rarely surgery.

3 thoughts on “What is a stomach ulcer?”

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