Duodenal Ulcer – Symptoms And Causes

duodenal ulcer diet

The duodenal ulcer is one of the most common causes for abdominal pain. When duodenal ulcers are treated, then they can get better in a matter of weeks. The duodenal ulcer is a sore which forms in the lining of the duodenum. We know that the first part of the small intestine is the duodenum. The small intestine is the part of the digestive system in which food travels through straight after it leaves your stomach. You can get an ulcer in your duodenum, as well as in your stomach. The duodenal ulcer and stomach ulcer are both types of peptic ulcer. If you have either of these ulcers, then you have what is called peptic ulcer disease.

Your doctor will talk with you about your symptoms and he or she will examine you, so he or she can make a diagnosis for the duodenal ulcer. Also, your doctor will make some tests, such as a blood test, stool sample or breath test to find out if you have H. pylori in your body; a gastroscopy, where a specialist uses a thin and flexible tube with a camera on the end to look inside your stomach and duodenum. If you have a gastroscopy, then the surgeon can take a sample of tissue to check you for H. pylori. [1] This process is known as biopsy. You should lose weight if you are overweight, so this can decrease your chance of getting duodenal ulcer. Also, you need to stop smoking and drinking alcohol, because they can worsen the symptoms of duodenal ulcer. You can drink alcohol in limited amounts. [2] You need to avoid any foods which can trigger duodenal ulcer and its symptoms, such as spicy foods, coffee, tomatoes, chocolate and fatty foods.

duodenal ulcer pain location

Duodenal ulcer symptoms

If you have a duodenal ulcer, then you can have some of the following symptoms:

  • Lose weight
  • Have pain in the stomach or abdomen (this might come and go)
  • Feel sick
  • Have indigestion
  • Feel very full and bloated after eating

There are very rare cases when the duodenal ulcer can cause serious complications. If your stools look bloody or a black color, or you vomit or if you have a sharp pain in your stomach that does not go away, then you need immediately to go the nearest emergency department. You should find doctor which can help you with your symptoms and he or she can give you the right treatment for your duodenal ulcers.

Duodenal ulcer causes

We know that the stomach makes a strong acid which can kill germs and it can help you to digest food. The cells of the stomach and duodenum make a barrier from mucus, because they want to protect themselves against the acid of stomach. If this barrier is damaged, then the duodenal ulcer can form. The bacteria called H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori) are the main cause of this damage. These bacteria can cause the lining of your duodenum to become inflamed and the duodenal ulcer can form. [1]

Also, there are some cases when some medications can cause a duodenal ulcer. Usually, anti – inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen are causes for duodenal ulcers [3]. In rare cases, other medicines or medical conditions can cause a duodenal ulcer. If you smoke, drink a lot of alcohol or you are stressed, then you have increased chances of getting duodenal ulcer [2,4]. But, these lifestyle factors are causing duodenal ulcer in less cases compared to H. pylori bacteria.

You need to avoid smoking and excessively drinking alcohol, because they can worsen the symptoms of duodenal ulcer that you have. Also, there are rare cases when other causes can lead to duodenal ulcer, such as Zollinger – Ellison syndrome. This is a rare condition in which more acid than usual is made by the stomach.


There are some cases when complications can happen due to the duodenal ulcer and they can be serious. The most common complications of duodenal ulcer include:

  • Perforation: The duodenal ulcer goes right through (it perforates) the wall of the first part of the small intestine (called duodenum). The acid and food in the duodenum leak in the abdominal cavity. Usually, this is causing severe pain and it is a medical emergency. [5]
  • Bleeding ulcer: This complication can range from a trickle to a life – threatening bleed.


[1] Ahmed S, Belayneh YM. Helicobacter pylori and duodenal ulcer: Systematic review of controversies in causation. Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology. 2019;12:441–7. doi:10.2147/CEG.S228203

[2] Salih BA, Abasiyanik MF, Bayyurt N, Sander E. H pylori infection and other risk factors associated with peptic ulcers in Turkish patients: A retrospective study. World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2007;13(23):3245–8. doi:10.3748/wjg.v13.i23.3245

[3] Cryer B, Mahaffey KW. Gastrointestinal ulcers, role of aspirin, and clinical outcomes: pathobiology, diagnosis, and treatment. Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare. 2014;7:137–46. doi:10.2147/JMDH.S54324

[4] Robert A, Stowe DF, Nezamis JE. Possible relationship between smoking and peptic ulcer. Nature. 1971;233:497-8.

[5] Søreide K, Thorsen K, Harrison EM, et al. Perforated peptic ulcer. Lancet. 2015;386(10000):1288–98. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(15)00276-7


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