Authored by Revere Health

How to Recognize Stomach Ulcers

November 28, 2016 | Family Medicine

Family Medicine - Annual Physical Exams

For people who suffer from them, ulcers in the stomach are a painful and constant issue. Also known as peptic ulcer disease, these are sores that develop inside your stomach. Ulcers may cause severe pain at best, but at worst they create much more serious issues in the stomach.

In a lot of cases, recognizing and identifying ulcers as the source of your pain can be a big first step. Many people try to push through their stomach pain, or convince themselves it’s caused by another, less serious factor.

Without treatment, though, stomach ulcers can become serious. With that in mind, let’s look at a few basic tips for identifying peptic ulcer disease. 


There are a few other common symptoms for many cases of stomach ulcers including:

  • Bloating or gassiness, including frequent belching
  • Nausea
  • Heartburn
  • Trouble eating fatty foods

In some cases, especially when left untreated, ulcers can have even worse symptoms. These can include:

  • Large changes in appetite, including unexpected weight loss
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting, especially vomiting blood
  • Blood or dark material in stools
  • Sharp, severe pain

Roughly 75 percent of all cases of stomach ulcers show no symptoms at all. In many cases this means the condition isn’t serious enough to worry about, but in others it could mean the ulcers continue to get worse while nothing is done.

Risk Factors

Many people are at a higher risk than normal for stomach ulcers, and these people should pay close attention to ulcer symptoms. These groups can include:

  1. People who smoke or drink alcohol regularly
  2. People who regularly use painkillers like aspirin or ibuprofen
  3. People who produce high amounts of acid in their bodies
  4. People who have had radiation treatment
  5. People who eat a lot of spicy food or have a lot of daily stress

If you fit into any of these categories, you should be on higher alert for any stomach ulcer symptoms mentioned above. If any symptoms come up, talk to your doctor right away.


Your doctor will be able to identify most stomach ulcers with pretty solid accuracy based on your symptoms, but there are times where certain tests are needed. These tests will depend on all the specifics of each individual case. Some types of tests available for stomach ulcers include:

Basic Lab Tests: A bacteria called H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori) cause most cases of stomach ulcers, and the simplest way to identify many of these cases is figuring out whether this bacteria is present in the body or not.

  • Breath test: Involves eating an item filled with radioactive carbon, which is broken down by the stomach. You’ll then blow into a bag – if carbon dioxide is present, it means you’re infected with H. pylori.
  • Stool test
  • Blood test: Not typically used, as results are not always accurate.

Endoscopy: If your doctor still isn’t sure, he or she might recommend an endoscopy, or a scope of the digestive system. Your doctor will feed a lens attached to a small tube down the throat and into the digestive system to manually check for stomach ulcers.

X-rays: Referred to in the medical community as an upper gastrointestinal series or a barium swallow, this test is a group of X-rays taken of the upper digestive system. You will swallow a liquid containing barium, a contrast agent meant to make its way into your digestive system and help make potential ulcers easier to see.

In some minor cases, your doctor may recommend taking a heartburn or other anti-acid medication to see if it helps with symptoms before further testing. In cases where these tests do identify active ulcers, though, treatment usually begins immediately.

Our Utah family medicine providers are trained in a broad range of disciplines including internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology and geriatrics.



“What Is Peptic Ulcer Disease?” WebMD.

“Peptic ulcer.” The Mayo Clinic.


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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.