Duodenal 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:
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
Loss of appetite
Ulcers can cause serious problems and severe abdominal pain. One problem is bleeding. Bleeding symptoms may include:
Bloody or black, tarry stools
Vomiting what looks like coffee grounds or blood
A perforated ulcer is a break through the wall of the duodenum. It causes sudden and severe pain.
An upper GI endoscopy
may be done to stop bleeding. A thin, lighted tube is inserted down the throat into the stomach or intestine. Heat, electricity, epinephrine, or a substance called fibrin glue can then be applied to the area. This should stop the blood flow.
Surgery for duodenal ulcers is rare, but it can greatly reduce acid production. Common procedures include:
Removal of the ulcer
Removal of part of the stomach or small intestine, and creating a new connection between the them
Tying off the bleeding blood vessel
Taking tissue from another part of the intestine and oversewing the ulcer
Cutting part of the nerve to reduce acid production
Peptic ulcers (stomach ulcers). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at:
https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/peptic-ulcers-stomach-ulcers. Accessed April 4, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Daus Mahnke, MD Last Updated: 5/7/2014