Signs You May Have an Ulcer


A peptic ulcer is akin to an unpleasantly sore lesion or crater, typically forming in the stomach lining (known as a gastric ulcer) or at the commencement of the small intestine in the duodenum (referred to as a duodenal ulcer). Ulcers emerge as a consequence of an imbalance in digestive juices or if the stomach lining endures some form of impairment, such as that caused by alcoholism.

The experience of having an ulcer can be intensely painful, making it a condition that is hard to overlook if one develops. Nevertheless, if neglected and left untreated, an ulcer can progressively erode the stomach wall, leading to a perforated ulcer, or it can damage the blood vessels, resulting in a bleeding ulcer. Both scenarios culminate in severe and excruciating health complications. Here, we elaborate on 15 unmistakable signs that may indicate the presence of an ulcer:






  1. Abdominal Pain:
    You may experience pain in your abdomen, particularly situated between the breastbone and belly button. This pain often follows meals as the stomach empties and may manifest as waves of burning or stabbing sensations.
  2. Heightened Indigestion:
    An ulcer can severely exacerbate indigestion and gas pain, typically evidenced by burping and hiccupping following meals.
  3. Nausea:
    Owing to an imbalance of digestive juices, nausea, ranging from mild to severe, is a common symptom of an ulcer, often more pronounced first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.
  4. A Weighted Abdomen:
    As an ulcer develops, it's not uncommon to feel a sensation of heaviness or fullness in the belly, akin to the burden one feels after consuming a large volume of water.
  5. Flu-like Symptoms:
    Many patients with ulcers may dismiss flu-like symptoms, such as fatigue, general malaise, fever, and nausea, attributing them instead to the flu.
  6. Loss of Appetite:
    The acute and sharp stomach pains felt by many ulcer patients a few hours post-meal (during digestion) often lead to a fear of eating or a complete loss of appetite.
  7. Unexplained Hunger:
    It is also typical for those with an ulcer to experience hunger pangs a few hours after eating a full meal. However, these are not true hunger pains but rather ulcer pains caused by increased digestive juices.
  8. Sudden Weight Loss:
    Loss of appetite often results in sudden weight loss due to a reduced food intake. Frequent vomiting after meals, if caused by an ulcer, can also contribute to rapid weight loss.
  9. Altered Bowel Movements:
    The appearance of bowel movements can change, turning darker, pasty, or even showing traces of blood if an ulcer grows or becomes more severe, potentially developing into a bleeding ulcer.
  10. Bloody Vomit:
    Vomiting, common with an ulcer due to high levels of digestive juices, becomes a grave concern if blood is present, indicating an advanced stage of the ulcer that necessitates immediate medical attention.
  11. Fullness and Bloating:
    People with ulcers may experience intense hunger shortly after eating a substantial meal but tend to feel full quite quickly, often after consuming much less food than usual.

    Additionally, ulcer patients may experience bloating, where the stomach swells due to being full of gas or air. The NHS notes that bloating can be especially prevalent after consuming fatty foods, such as fried items.

  1. Anemia:
    A more subtle symptom of ulcers is anemia, a condition arising when the body lacks sufficient red blood cells to transport the necessary oxygen to the body's cells.

    How are ulcers and anemia connected? In some instances, ulcers can bleed, leading to chronic, slow blood loss, which results in a higher than normal rate of iron loss from the body (as a component of blood), potentially causing iron deficiency anemia, as explained by

  1. Shortness of Breath:
    Anemia, which may result from chronic blood loss due to an ulcer, can manifest as shortness of breath. This occurs because of a deficit of red blood cells needed to carry oxygen to the body's cells, including those in the lungs, making breathing more laborious.
  2. Feeling Faint:
    Feeling faint, lightheaded, or dizzy are additional symptoms of a bleeding ulcer. Consistent blood loss can lead to anemia, causing a person to feel lightheaded or faint, particularly when standing up quickly from a seated or lying position as the body struggles to supply sufficient blood to the brain. People with anemia from an ulcer may also experience weakness and excessive fatigue.
  3. Stomach Discomfort:
    Individuals with ulcers might also encounter symptoms akin to acid reflux and heartburn. While similar in sensation, these conditions are distinct. In those with ulcers, stomach discomfort is due to irritation of the ulcer by stomach acid.

    However, unlike acid reflux, the acid does not typically ascend from the stomach into the esophagus. Another notable difference is that stomach discomfort tends to be alleviated by eating and drinking in cases of ulcers, whereas acid reflux is often triggered by the consumption of specific foods and drinks.