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Duodenal Ulcer Symptoms & Diagnosis


Peptic ulcers do not always cause symptoms. Symptoms may come and go. Food may increase gastric ulcer pain. Food will often relieve duodenal ulcer pain.

Symptoms 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
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bloating
  • Burping

Ulcers can cause serious problems and severe abdominal pain. Problems include:

  • Bleeding—symptoms may include:
    • Black, tarry stools
    • Vomiting what looks like coffee grounds
    • Weakness
    • Dizziness
    • Anemia
  • Perforated ulcer—a breaking through the wall of the stomach or duodenum that will cause:
    • Sudden and severe pain
  • Scar tissue that narrows and eventually closes off the outlet of the stomach to the intestines and can cause:
    • Vomiting
    • Weight loss
    • Intense pain

Duodenal Ulcer

duodenal ulcer
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tell your doctor about all medication you are taking.

Tests may include:

  • Rectal exam and stool guaiac test —to test for hidden blood
  • Blood test or breath test—to check for H pylori infection
    • A blood test can also check for Zollinger-Ellison syndrome
  • Upper GI series —a series of x-rays of the upper digestive system taken after drinking a barium solution
  • Endoscopy—a thin, lighted tube inserted down the throat to look inside the digestive tract used to:
    • Obtain tissue samples to test for H pylori infection or for cancer
    • Eliminate other serious causes of gastrointestinal symptoms

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