What are the symptoms of peptic ulcers?

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Some signs and symptoms of a peptic ulcer include indigestion, heartburn, throwing up, and feeling like throwing up. Another symptom is gnawing pain that is usually in the middle of the abdomen and occurs between one and three hours after a meal. In general, the pain lasts for minutes and not hours. (This answer provided for NATA by the University of Montana Athletic Training Education Program.)
Lawrence S. Friedman, MD
Gastroenterology
Aside from dyspepsia (bad digestion), other symptoms that may point to a peptic ulcer include:
  • evidence of bleeding, such as passing black stools or vomiting blood or material that resembles coffee grounds
  • repeatedly vomiting large amounts of sour juice and food, which can signal an obstructing ulcer
  • sudden, overwhelming pain -- a rare but frightening signal that the ulcer has perforated the stomach or duodenal wall.
Michael T. Murray, ND
Naturopathic Medicine
Although the symptoms of peptic ulcer disease (PUD) may be absent or quite vague, most PUD is associated with abdominal discomfort noted forty-five to sixty minutes after meals or during the night. In the typical case, the pain is described as gnawing, burning, cramp-like, or aching or as &quotheartburn." Eating virtually any food or using antacids usually results in great relief.
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Peptic ulcer symptoms include abdominal discomfort, which may feel like a dull ache or sharp pain in the area from the navel to the breastbone. This pain may last a few minutes or hours, and may occur 2-3 hours after eating, or worsen when the stomach is empty. It may be sporadic, coming and going for days or weeks. Discomfort may worsen at night or when reclining. You may feel nauseated or bloated; have a poor appetite, and weight loss. The pain often may be relieved when eating, and by anti-acid medications. More serious and rarer symptoms of a peptic ulcer are bloody or tarry stools and vomiting blood.

Peptic ulcers cause stomach pains that occur between the belly button and the breastbone. They are described as a burning or gnawing sensation. The pain often appears and disappears over the course of a day, and it may disappear completely only to flare up weeks or months later. Eating or taking an antacid may relieve the pain, but only temporarily. Less common symptoms - and possible signs of complications - include vomiting or nausea, changes in one's appetite, bloody stools, or throwing up blood.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.