Gastric Ulcer vs. Peptic Ulcer

What's the Difference?

Gastric ulcer and peptic ulcer are both types of ulcers that occur in the digestive system, specifically in the stomach or the upper part of the small intestine. However, there are some key differences between the two. Gastric ulcers are ulcers that develop in the lining of the stomach, while peptic ulcers refer to ulcers that can occur in either the stomach or the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). Another difference is that gastric ulcers are more commonly associated with pain that worsens after eating, while peptic ulcers tend to cause pain that improves after eating. Additionally, the causes of these ulcers can vary, with gastric ulcers often being linked to the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, while peptic ulcers can be caused by factors such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or excessive acid production.


AttributeGastric UlcerPeptic Ulcer
LocationGastric (stomach)Can occur in the stomach or duodenum
CauseHelicobacter pylori infection, long-term use of NSAIDsHelicobacter pylori infection, long-term use of NSAIDs
SymptomsAbdominal pain, bloating, nausea, vomitingAbdominal pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting
ComplicationsBleeding, perforation, obstructionBleeding, perforation, obstruction
TreatmentAntibiotics, acid-suppressing medications, lifestyle changesAntibiotics, acid-suppressing medications, lifestyle changes
PrevalenceMore common in older adultsCan occur at any age

Further Detail


Gastric ulcer and peptic ulcer are two common gastrointestinal disorders that affect millions of people worldwide. While they share some similarities, they also have distinct differences in terms of their location, causes, symptoms, and treatment approaches. Understanding these attributes is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective management of these conditions. In this article, we will delve into the characteristics of gastric ulcer and peptic ulcer, highlighting their similarities and differences.


Gastric ulcers specifically refer to ulcers that develop in the stomach lining. They are commonly found in the antrum, which is the lower part of the stomach. On the other hand, peptic ulcers encompass both gastric ulcers and duodenal ulcers. Duodenal ulcers occur in the first part of the small intestine, known as the duodenum. Therefore, while gastric ulcers are limited to the stomach, peptic ulcers can occur in both the stomach and the duodenum.


The primary cause of both gastric ulcers and peptic ulcers is the erosion of the protective lining of the stomach or duodenum. This erosion is often a result of an imbalance between the stomach's aggressive factors, such as stomach acid and digestive enzymes, and the protective factors, such as mucus and bicarbonate. However, the underlying causes of this imbalance can differ between gastric ulcers and peptic ulcers.

Gastric ulcers are commonly associated with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection. This bacterium weakens the stomach's protective lining, making it more susceptible to damage from stomach acid. Other factors that can contribute to gastric ulcers include the long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and excessive alcohol consumption.

On the other hand, the primary cause of duodenal ulcers, a type of peptic ulcer, is also H. pylori infection. However, duodenal ulcers can also be caused by an overproduction of stomach acid, which can be triggered by stress, smoking, and certain medications. Additionally, the use of NSAIDs is a common risk factor for both gastric and duodenal ulcers.


Gastric ulcers and peptic ulcers share several common symptoms, although the severity and presentation may vary from person to person. Some of the typical symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort, often described as a burning or gnawing sensation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite and unintended weight loss
  • Bloating and belching
  • Feeling full quickly during meals

However, there are also some differences in the symptoms experienced by individuals with gastric ulcers and peptic ulcers. Gastric ulcers tend to cause pain shortly after eating, whereas peptic ulcers, particularly duodenal ulcers, often lead to pain relief after eating or taking antacids. Additionally, gastric ulcers may cause vomiting of blood or dark, tarry stools, indicating bleeding in the stomach.


Diagnosing gastric ulcers and peptic ulcers typically involves a combination of medical history assessment, physical examination, and diagnostic tests. The initial evaluation may include discussing the patient's symptoms, risk factors, and medical history. During the physical examination, the healthcare provider may palpate the abdomen to check for tenderness or other signs of ulcers.

To confirm the diagnosis and determine the location of the ulcer, various diagnostic tests may be performed. These can include:

  • Endoscopy: A thin, flexible tube with a camera is inserted through the mouth to visualize the stomach and duodenum, allowing the doctor to directly observe any ulcers.
  • Upper gastrointestinal series: X-rays are taken after the patient drinks a contrast material, which helps identify any abnormalities in the stomach and duodenum.
  • Stool test: This test can detect the presence of H. pylori infection by analyzing a stool sample.
  • Biopsy: During an endoscopy, a small tissue sample may be taken for further examination under a microscope to confirm the presence of H. pylori or rule out other conditions.


The treatment approaches for gastric ulcers and peptic ulcers are generally similar, focusing on relieving symptoms, promoting healing, and preventing complications. The primary goals of treatment include:

  • Eradicating H. pylori infection, if present, using a combination of antibiotics and acid-suppressing medications.
  • Reducing stomach acid production with medications such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) or histamine H2-receptor antagonists.
  • Protecting the stomach lining with medications that enhance the production of mucus and promote healing, such as sucralfate.
  • Managing pain and discomfort with antacids or other pain-relieving medications.
  • Identifying and avoiding triggers, such as NSAIDs or alcohol, that can worsen the condition.

In severe cases or when complications arise, such as bleeding or perforation, surgical intervention may be necessary. However, surgery is typically reserved for a small percentage of individuals who do not respond to conservative treatment or have severe complications.


Gastric ulcers and peptic ulcers are gastrointestinal disorders that share similarities in terms of their symptoms, diagnostic approaches, and treatment goals. However, they differ in their location, causes, and some specific symptoms. Gastric ulcers are limited to the stomach, often caused by H. pylori infection, while peptic ulcers encompass both gastric and duodenal ulcers, with H. pylori infection being the primary cause. Understanding these attributes is crucial for healthcare professionals to accurately diagnose and manage these conditions, ensuring optimal patient outcomes.

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