7 Common Signs of a Duodenal Ulcer

Duodenal ulcers are a type of sore that develop in your small intestine in an area called the duodenum. This area is located at the top portion of your small intestine just past the stomach. 

This type of ulcer can be caused by several different things. Some people get duodenal ulcers from infections with Helicobacter pylori often referred to as H. pylori, a bacterium often detected in the stomach. 

Ulcers can also be caused by anti-inflammatory medications which can impact the mucous barrier in the duodenum enabling acids to cause ulcers. There are also certain medical conditions that can cause duodenal ulcers. For example, duodenal ulcers can be caused by the increase in stomach acid associated with Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. 

Additionally certain lifestyle factors can increase a person’s risk of developing duodenal ulcers including heavy drinking, smoking and heavy stress.

Research suggests that upwards of one out of 10 people in the U.S. experience a duodenal ulcer at some point in time. While ulcers were originally more common in men, the rates of ulcers in women have increased in recent years.

Though duodenal ulcers may be confused with other medical conditions, there are some common signs and symptoms. Follow along for 7 common signs of a duodenal ulcer.

7 Signs of a Duodenal Ulcer

1. Stomach pain which sometimes becomes more severe and then gets better depending on what you are eating and drinking.

2. Bloating and an overall feeling of fullness especially after you eat 

3. Increased gas and a need to burp

4. Nausea and even feeling like you might need to vomit

5. Weight loss which can happen if the ulcer causes any type of blockage in your digestive track which makes it difficult for food to travel through your stomach.

6. Weight gain through comfort eating in order to find pain relief through food that neutralizes the acid build up. 

7. Indigestion, sometimes called dyspepsia, which is characterized by discomfort and a burning feeling in your upper abdomen area.

8. Extremely serious ulcer cases can cause more severe symptoms and complications that require immediate medical attention including blood in your stool. 

If you think that you might be suffering from a duodenal ulcer, you should seek out experienced medical attention. When left untreated, duodenal ulcers can lead to more serious complications including bleeding and even perforations in your intestine. There are certain tests that your gastroenterologist may perform for diagnostic purposes. An endoscopy is often used to diagnose a duodenal ulcer. Through this test your physician is uses a flexible telescope which provides visibility in the duodenum so that ulcers can be detected. Your doctor may also test you to see if you have H. pylori.

The experienced team at Gastroenterology Health Partners is here for you if you are concerned about duodenal ulcers and other gastroenterological medical conditions. For more information or to schedule an appointment at one of our Kentucky or Southern Indiana offices, contact one of our practice locations near you.  

What is H. Pylori?

H. pylori is a bacteria that can infect the stomach and cause complications like stomach ulcers. Here’s an overview of how doctors identify and treat this infection.

Causes and Risk Factors

H. Pylori is very common- in the United States, around 30-40% of people are estimated to have an infection with the bacteria in their lifetime. Most It may spread through contaminated food and water, and through an infected person’s saliva or other bodily fluids. As such, risk factors include eating food that is not cooked properly or safely and drinking contaminated water. Living in crowded conditions also increases risk, as does living in a developing country where living conditions may be less sanitary and more crowded. Additionally, if you live with someone who has H. pylori, you have an increased risk.

Symptoms and Complications

Most people with H. pylori never have any symptoms. For people who do experience symptoms, they can include a burning or ache in the abdomen, loss of appetite, nausea, boating, weight loss, frequent burping, and nausea. There are some complications that can occur with H. pylori as well. The infection can damage the stomach’s protective lining and allow stomach acid to create an ulcer (an open sore). Additionally, the infection can cause gastritis (inflammation) on the stomach lining. H. pylori infection is also a risk factor for some kinds of stomach cancer.


There are a few ways doctors can diagnose H. pylori. They can perform blood testing to see if you have an active or past infection. They can also perform breath testing; in this case, you swallow a pill containing carbon molecules and then breathe into a bag. Doctors check for carbon in your breath- if it’s present this means the bacteria is present. Another testing option is a stool test, in which doctors analyze a stool sample for abnormal bacteria or proteins that indicate an H. pylori infection. In some cases, your doctor may perform an upper endoscopy to visualize your stomach and take a tissue biopsy.

Treatment and Prevention

Most often, doctors treat H. pylori infection with multiple antibiotics. They may use two simultaneously to hedge against the bacteria becoming resistant to one. Your doctor may recommend other treatments depending on your case. This can include prescribing proton pump inhibitors, which block stomach acid production. They may also prescribe histamine blockers, which block histamine, the substance that triggers acid production. Often times, you may undergo follow-up testing a few weeks after treatment to determine if the bacteria has been eliminated.

You can take some steps to prevent H. pylori infection. Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after using the bathroom and before eating. Only consume food that has been cooked in a clean and safe manner. Avoid unclean drinking water if possible. Doing these things can cut down on risk factors for H. pylori.

Our experienced team at GHP has years of experience diagnosing and treating H. pylori. We can help establish the best plan of care for your situation. Contact any of our office locations to learn about the options we offer and schedule an appointment today.