The most common stomach ulcer symptoms can often be misinterpreted as hunger pangs, heartburn (GERD symptoms) or indigestion. They usually manifest as a burning or gnawing sensation. This “gnawing” is what most often is difficult to identify and diagnose as stomach ulcer symptoms (or gastric ulcer symptoms) and not just a little bit of indigestion.
It is important to understand stomach ulcers — often referred to as peptic ulcers or gastric ulcers — in order to identify them. Individuals suffering from a stomach ulcer will have a small erosion in the gastrointestinal tract. If the erosion occurs in the stomach it is called a gastric ulcer. If it occurs in the first twelve inches of the small intestine beyond the stomach, it is called a duodenal ulcer. Duodenal ulcers are much more common but are often still simply referred to generally as stomach ulcers.
Early Stomach Ulcer Symptoms
Earlier symptoms are most difficult to associate directly with stomach ulcers as they often overlap with other medical conditions such as GERD symptoms (see below). These include the following sensations in the upper abdomen or just below the breastbone:
- Hunger Pang
These early stomach ulcer symptoms can last from twenty minutes to as long as 2 to 4 hours. The longer they last, the further along your problem may have become. Sometimes these distressing symptoms can come and go for several weeks at a time, which only serves to make early diagnosis more difficult. If these symptoms start to wake you in the middle of the night, I encourage you to see a medical professional.
Treating Early Ulcer Symptoms
I suggest treating these early symptoms with milk or some soft mild food. This may soothe the more common duodenal ulcer, but if it doesn’t soothe your symptoms, you may have a gastric ulcer. The symptoms of gastric ulcers are often exacerbated by eating.
Antacids work well for both types when you need to just get by, but don’t get in the habit of masking the core cause of the symptoms you superficially treat with over-the-counter antacids. This is a common and dangerous habit. Seriously: If you mask your symptoms long enough, you could simply encourage a much more severe condition with greater risks.
Late Stomach Ulcer Symptoms
Later stomach ulcer symptoms can feature the following frustrating manifestations:
- Increased appetite resulting from the relief provided by eating
- Paradoxically, reduced weight can result from poor digestion and pain-inhibited eating
- Pain that will not subside with your usual medication
- Anemia (weakness, tiredness and breathlessness)
- Blood in the stool (usually dark and tar-like)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blood in your vomit, which can be bright if fresh or dark if older
If you begin to experience any of these distressing symptoms, I urge you to see a medical professional. It is important that you distinguish the difference between stomach ulcer symptoms, stomach cancer symptoms, and Barrett’s Esophagus symptoms.
As I’ve said before, I don’t like to make people paranoid, but pain and difficulty in the gastrointestinal tract is difficult to diagnose yet can have serious consequences if left untreated. So it is important that you not just brush it off as a little indigestion and instead seek professional medical assurance.
While I’ll do my best to provide pointers on my website, you should only trust an in-person consultation with a medical professional for a true diagnosis of your symptoms.