Signs and Symptoms of Peptic Ulcer Disease

The most common symptom of peptic ulcer disease is burning pain in the upper center of the abdomen (called epigastric pain). Pain often comes and goes, improves after eating, and worsens when the stomach is empty (about 2 or 3 hours after eating). Many patients experience severe pain during the middle of the night.

Other PUD symptoms include the following:

  • Heartburn (acid reflux)
  • Indigestion (dyspepsia)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Non-cardiac chest pain
  • Weight loss

In patients who have peptic ulcer disease, stress, diet (e.g., spicy foods, foods that are high in fat), alcohol, and smoking can worsen symptoms.

Peptic ulcer disease can cause serious complications that require immediate treatment. These complications include the following:

  • Perforation (formation of a hole in the GI tract)
  • Obstruction (blockage) of the GI tract
  • Severe GI bleeding

Perforation, which also is called ulceration, is caused by digestive acids that burn through the mucosa and the gastric or duodenal tissue beneath the mucosa. Perforation of the stomach or small intestine can cause peritonitis (inflammation of the abdominal lining), which often requires surgery and aggressive antibiotic therapy.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 12 Mar 2008

Last Modified: 20 Sep 2010