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Peptic ulcers do not always cause symptoms. Symptoms may come and go. Food or fluids sometimes make symptoms better. Having an empty stomach may make symptoms worse. However, symptoms can occur at any time.

Symptoms may include:

  • Gnawing pain:
    • May awaken you from sleep
    • May change when you eat
    • May last for a few minutes or several hours
    • Feels like unusually strong hunger pangs
    • May be relieved by taking antacids
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bloating
  • Burping
  • Weight loss

Ulcers can cause serious problems (like bleeding) and severe abdominal pain. Bleeding symptoms may include:

  • Bloody or black, tarry stools
  • Vomiting that looks like coffee grounds or blood
  • Weakness
  • Lightheadedness

A perforated ulcer is a break through the wall of the stomach or duodenum. It causes sudden and severe pain. If you suspect this, call for emergency medical services right away.


Meurer LN, Bower DJ. Management of Helicobacter pylori infection. Am Fam Physician. 2002;65(7):1327-36.

Peptic ulcer disease. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated May 11, 2015. Accessed October 4, 2016.

Peptic ulcer disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: Updated April 30, 2012. Accessed April 29, 2013.

Understanding peptic ulcer disease. American Gastroenterological Association website. Available at: Accessed April 29, 2013.

Last reviewed June 2016 by Daus Mahnke, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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