Marked by a burning sensation caused from a wound in the lining of your stomach (gastric ulcer) or your duodenum (duodenal ulcer), peptic ulcers develop when the acids that help you digest food damage the walls of your stomach or duodenum (first part of the small intestine). Contrary to popular belief, stress and spicy food do not cause peptic ulcers, but they can make symptoms worse.
If you have a peptic ulcer, it was most likely caused by an infection from bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), or by long-term use of certain medications and painkillers such as aspirin, ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin), and naproxen sodium (such as Aleve or Anaprox).
Although it’s possible not to experience any symptoms, the most common peptic ulcer symptom is a burning sensation or pain in your belly between your breastbone and your belly button. The pain usually happens before or after meals and at night, lasting from a few minutes to a few hours.
Less common, but more severe, ulcer symptoms may include:
- Bloody or black stool
- Excessive burping
- Feeling full after eating a small amount of food
- Losing weight without trying
- Not feeling hungry at all for several days
- Vomiting blood
Several conditions have similar symptoms to peptic ulcers; therefore, it’s important that you be seen by a medical professional to ensure an accurate diagnosis.