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Peptic Ulcer Disease Clinical Presentation

  • Author: BS Anand, MD; Chief Editor: Julian Katz, MD  more...
 
Updated: Jan 09, 2015
 

History

Obtaining a medical history, especially for peptic ulcer disease, H pylori infection, ingestion of NSAIDs, or smoking, is essential in making the correct diagnosis. Gastric and duodenal ulcers usually cannot be differentiated based on history alone, although some findings may be suggestive.

Epigastric pain is the most common symptom of both gastric and duodenal ulcers. It is characterized by a gnawing or burning sensation and occurs after meals—classically, shortly after meals with gastric ulcer and 2-3 hours afterward with duodenal ulcer. Food or antacids relieve the pain of duodenal ulcers but provide minimal relief of gastric ulcer pain.

Duodenal ulcer pain often awakens the patient at night. About 50-80% of patients with duodenal ulcers experience nightly pain, as opposed to only 30-40% of patients with gastric ulcers and 20-40% of patients with nonulcer dyspepsia (NUD). Pain typically follows a daily pattern specific to the patient. Pain with radiation to the back is suggestive of a posterior penetrating gastric ulcer complicated by pancreatitis.

Patients who develop gastric outlet obstruction as a result of a chronic, untreated duodenal ulcer usually report a history of fullness and bloating associated with nausea and emesis that occurs several hours after food intake. A common misconception is that adults with gastric outlet obstruction present with nausea and emesis immediately after a meal.

Other possible manifestations include the following:

  • Dyspepsia, including belching, bloating, distention, and fatty food intolerance
  • Heartburn
  • Chest discomfort
  • Hematemesis or melena resulting from gastrointestinal bleeding. Melena may be intermittent over several days or multiple episodes in a single day.
  • Rarely, a briskly bleeding ulcer can present as hematochezia.
  • Symptoms consistent with anemia (eg, fatigue, dyspnea) may be present
  • Sudden onset of symptoms may indicate perforation.
  • NSAID-induced gastritis or ulcers may be silent, especially in elderly patients.
  • Only 20-25% of patients with symptoms suggestive of peptic ulceration are found on investigation to have a peptic ulcer.

Alarm features that warrant prompt gastroenterology referral[1] include the following:

  • Bleeding or anemia
  • Early satiety
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Progressive dysphagia or odynophagia
  • Recurrent vomiting
  • Family history of GI cancer
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Physical Examination

In uncomplicated PUD, the clinical findings are few and nonspecific and include the following:

  • Epigastric tenderness (usually mild)
  • Right upper quadrant tenderness may suggest a biliary etiology or, less frequently, PUD.
  • Guaiac-positive stool resulting from occult blood loss
  • Melena resulting from acute or subacute gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Succussion splash resulting from partial or complete gastric outlet obstruction

Patients with perforated PUD usually present with a sudden onset of severe, sharp abdominal pain. Most patients describe generalized pain; a few present with severe epigastric pain. As even slight movement can tremendously worsen their pain, these patients assume a fetal position. Abdominal examination usually discloses generalized tenderness, rebound tenderness, guarding, and rigidity. However, the degree of peritoneal findings is strongly influenced by a number of factors, including the size of perforation, amount of bacterial and gastric contents contaminating the abdominal cavity, time between perforation and presentation, and spontaneous sealing of perforation.

These patients may also demonstrate signs and symptoms of septic shock, such as tachycardia, hypotension, and anuria. Not surprisingly, these indicators of shock may be absent in elderly or immunocompromised patients or in those with diabetes. Patients should be asked if retching and vomiting occurred before the onset of pain.

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Staging

Gastric ulcers are classified according to the Johnson classification, which categorizes the ulcers as types I through IV.

Type I

Type I gastric ulcers are typically located near the angularis incisura on the lesser curvature, close to the border between the antrum and the body of the stomach. Patients with type I gastric ulcers usually have normal or decreased gastric acid secretion.

Type II

Type II gastric ulcers are a combination of stomach and duodenal ulcers and are associated with normal or increased gastric acid secretion.

Type III

Type III gastric ulcers are prepyloric and are associated with normal or increased gastric acid secretion.

Type IV

Type IV gastric ulcers occur near the gastroesophageal junction, and gastric acid secretion is normal or below normal.

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Contributor Information and Disclosures
Author

BS Anand, MD Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Baylor College of Medicine

BS Anand, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, American College of Gastroenterology, American Gastroenterological Association, American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Julian Katz, MD Clinical Professor of Medicine, Drexel University College of Medicine

Julian Katz, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Gastroenterology, American College of Physicians, American Gastroenterological Association, American Geriatrics Society, American Medical Association, American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, American Society of Law, Medicine & Ethics, American Trauma Society, Association of American Medical Colleges, Physicians for Social Responsibility

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Acknowledgements

Faisal Aziz, MD Assistant Professor of Surgery, Divsion of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery, Department of Surgery, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine

Faisal Aziz, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Surgeons and American Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Simmy Bank, MD Chair, Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Long Island Jewish Hospital, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Jeffrey Glenn Bowman, MD, MS Consulting Staff, Highfield MRI

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Carmen Cuffari, MD Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Gastroenterology/Nutrition, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Carmen Cuffari, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Gastroenterology, American Gastroenterological Association, North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Brian James Daley, MD, MBA, FACS, FCCP, CNSC Professor and Program Director, Department of Surgery, Chief, Division of Trauma and Critical Care, University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Medicine

Brian James Daley, MD, MBA, FACS, FCCP, CNSC is a member of the following medical societies: American Association for the Surgery of Trauma, American College of Chest Physicians, American College of Surgeons, American Medical Association, Association for Academic Surgery, Association for Surgical Education, Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma, Shock Society, Society of Critical Care Medicine, Southeastern Surgical Congress, and Tennessee Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Shane M Devlin, MD, FRCP(C) Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Peter Lougheed Center, University of Calgary, Canada

Shane M Devlin, MD, FRCP(C) is a member of the following medical societies: American Gastroenterological Association, Canadian Association of Gastroenterology, Canadian Medical Association, and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Steven C Dronen, MD, FAAEM Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine, LeConte Medical Center

Steven C Dronen, MD, FAAEM is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Emergency Medicine and Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

George T Fantry, MD Associate Professor of Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, University of Maryland School of Medicine

George T Fantry, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Gastroenterology and American Gastroenterological Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

John Geibel, MD, DSc, MA Vice Chair and Professor, Department of Surgery, Section of Gastrointestinal Medicine, and Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Yale University School of Medicine; Director, Surgical Research, Department of Surgery, Yale-New Haven Hospital

John Geibel, MD, DSc, MA is a member of the following medical societies: American Gastroenterological Association, American Physiological Society, American Society of Nephrology, Association for Academic Surgery, International Society of Nephrology, New York Academy of Sciences, and Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract

Disclosure: AMGEN Royalty Consulting; Ardelyx Ownership interest Board membership

David Greenwald, MD Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine, Fellowship Program Director, Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Montefiore Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

David Greenwald, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American College of Gastroenterology, American College of Physicians, American Gastroenterological Association, American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, and New York Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Harsh Grewal, MD, FACS, FAAP Clinical Professor of Surgery, Temple University School of Medicine; Chief, Division of Pediatric Surgery, Cooper University Hospital

Harsh Grewal, MD, FACS, FAAP is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Surgeons, American Pediatric Surgical Association, Association for Surgical Education, Children's Oncology Group, Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma, International Pediatric Endosurgery Group, Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons, Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons, and SouthwesternSurgical Congress

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Eugene Hardin, MD, FAAEM, FACEP Former Chair and Associate Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science; Former Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine, Martin Luther King Jr/Drew Medical Center

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Andre Hebra, MD Chief, Division of Pediatric Surgery, Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics, Medical University of South Carolina College of Medicine; Surgeon-in-Chief, Medical University of South Carolina Children's Hospital

Andre Hebra, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Surgeons, American Medical Association, American Pediatric Surgical Association, Children's Oncology Group, Florida Medical Association, International Pediatric Endosurgery Group, Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons, Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons,South Carolina Medical Association, Southeastern Surgical Congress, and Southern Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Juda Zvi Jona MD, FAAP(s), FACS, EUPSA, Clinical Professor of Surgery, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine; Clinical Professor of Surgery, Northwestern University, The Feinberg School of Medicine; Attending Senior Surgeon, Director of Pediatric Surgery Service, Surgical Executive Committee, Sparrow Hospital

Juda Zvi Jona is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Bronchoesophagological Association, American College of Surgeons, American Medical Association, American Pediatric Surgical Association, Association for Academic Surgery, British Association of Paediatric Surgeons, Central Surgical Association, Children's Oncology Group, and International Pediatric Endosurgery Group

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Daryl Lau, MD, MPH, MSc, FRCP(C) Director of Translational Liver Research, Liver Center, Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Daryl Lau, MD, MPH, MSc, FRCP(C) is a member of the following medical societies: American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and American Gastroenterological Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Tri H Le, MD Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Penn State Milton S Hershey Medical Center

Tri H Le, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Gastroenterology, American Gastroenterological Association, American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, and Crohns and Colitis Foundation of America

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Terence David Lewis, MBBS, FRACP, FRCPC, FACP Program Director, Internal Medicine Residency, & Assistant Chairman, Associate Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Loma Linda University Medical Center

Terence David Lewis, MBBS, FRACP, FRCPC, FACP is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Gastroenterology, American College of Physicians, American Gastroenterological Association, American Medical Association, California Medical Association, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, and Sigma Xi

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

B UK Li, MD Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Director, Pediatric Fellowships and Gastroenterology Fellowship, Medical Director, Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders and Cyclic Vomiting Program, Medical College of Wisconsin; Attending Gastroenterologist, Children's Hospital of Wisconsin

B UK Li, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Gastroenterological Association, and North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chris A Liacouras MD, Director of Pediatric Endoscopy, Division of Gastroenterology and Nutrition, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; Associate Professor of Pediatrics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

Chris A Liacouras is a member of the following medical societies: American Gastroenterological Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Wendi S Miller, MD Resident Physician, Department of Emergency Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine

Wendi S Miller, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American College of Emergency Physicians, American Medical Association, and Southern Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Robert K Minkes, MD, PhD Professor of Surgery, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, Southwestern Medical School; Medical Director and Chief of Surgical Services, Children's Medical Center of Dallas-Legacy Campus

Robert K Minkes, MD, PhD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American College of Surgeons, American Medical Association, American Pediatric Surgical Association, and Phi Beta Kappa

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Waqar A Qureshi, MD Associate Professor of Medicine, Chief of Endoscopy, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Baylor College of Medicine and Veterans Affairs Medical Center

Waqar A Qureshi, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Gastroenterology, American College of Physicians, American Gastroenterological Association, and American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Erick F Rivas, MD, PT Resident Physician, Department of Surgery, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Erick F Rivas, MD, PT is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Surgeons

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Ameesh Shah, MD Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, Children's Memorial Hospital

Ameesh Shah, MD is a member of the following medical societies: North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Philip Shayne MD, Associate Professor, Program Director and Vice Chair for Education, Department of Emergency Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine

Philip Shayne is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Emergency Physicians, American Medical Association, Council of Emergency Medicine Residency Directors, and Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Sanjeeb Shrestha, MD Consulting Staff, Division of Gastroenterology, Gastroenterology Care Consultants

Sanjeeb Shrestha, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Gastroenterology, American Gastroenterological Association, and American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Mutaz I Sultan, MBChB Makassed Hospital, Israel

Mutaz I Sultan, MBChB is a member of the following medical societies: American Gastroenterological Association and North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Medscape Salary Employment

Alan BR Thomson, MD Professor of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, University of Alberta, Canada

Alan BR Thomson, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alberta Medical Association, American College of Gastroenterology, American Gastroenterological Association, Canadian Association of Gastroenterology, Canadian Medical Association, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Noel Williams, MD Professor Emeritus, Department of Medicine, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada; Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Noel Williams, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Jay A Yelon, DO, FACS Associate Professor of Surgery and Anesthesiology, Program Director, Surgical Critical Care Fellowship, New York Medical College; Chief, Division of Trauma and Surgical Critical Care, Westchester Medical Center

Jay A Yelon, DO, FACS is a member of the following medical societies: American Association for the Surgery of Trauma, American Burn Association, American College of Surgeons, American Trauma Society, Association for Academic Surgery, Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma, Pan American Trauma Society, Shock Society, Society of Critical Care Medicine, Southeastern Surgical Congress, and Surgical Infection Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Vagal innervation of stomach.
Gastric ulcer with punched-out ulcer base with whitish fibrinoid exudates.
Gastric ulcer (lesser curvature) with punched-out ulcer base with whitish exudate.
Gastric cancer. Note the irregular heaped up overhanging margins.
Gastric cancer with ulcerated mass.
Gross pathology of a gastric ulcer.
Gastric cancer with ulcerated mass.
Endoscope view of an ulcer (at upper center) in the wall of the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine. This ulcer is an open sore. Image courtesy of Science Source | Gastrolab.
Duodenal ulcer in a 65-year-old man with osteoarthritis who presented with hematemesis and melena stools. The patient took naproxen on a daily basis.
 
 
 
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