Abdominal troubles are a common reason for why many women visit to the doctor’s office. But the answer for the exact underlying cause is not always easy. Stomach pain, for example, has many different causes. How about duodenal ulcer symptoms in women?
Duodenal ulcer in women (brief summary)
In general, gender has no significant effect for the risk of developing duodenal ulcer. So it’s not only a woman’s issue since it also affects men!
As the name suggests — duodenal ulcer is a break (open sore medically called as peptic ulcer) that forms in the lining of duodenum which is the first part of your small intestine close to your stomach (gastric). There is also a condition called stomach ulcer, a peptic ulcer that forms in the stomach lining.
Peptic ulcer can also develop in the lining of esophagus (your swallowing tube). But this esophageal ulcer is much less common.
This open sore was thought as a consequence of genetic (some people are likely to have excessive digestive acid secretion), bad lifestyle factors (e.g. heavy drinking alcohol, cigarette smoking, diet high in fatty foods), and stress — until the mid-1980s. It was believed that such factors play a key role to digestive acid buildup which then erodes the protective lining of duodenum.
Nowadays it’s thought that those factors still have an effect but they’re not the primary causes for the disease. Now we know that the two primary causes to blame are Helicobacter pylori infection and long-term use of NSAIDs (pain relievers) .
Study conducted since several decades ago has suggested that H. pylori infection exists in about 90 percent of duodenal ulcers – though some recent studies also suggest this number is probably declining.
The story is not different for NSAIDs. These pain relievers, especially when you take them in long term, are the second common culprit for ulcers. They may interfere with the stomach’s and duodenum’s ability to protect the soft lining from digestive acids .
NSAIDs are also probably the answer of why the disease is relatively common in elderly women. Because as you age, you’re likely to take more pain relievers! Arthritis (painful joint condition), for example, is prevalent (more common) in elderly.
However, some experts believe that the disease may form as a result of combination different factors. In fact, it’s also quite common to find people with H. pylori infection without developing ulcers.
The good news, effective treatments without surgery are now available. And surgery is rarely recommended!
Many times the disease heals without causing serious after effects, and it’s often curable! The use of antibiotics, acid reducers and antacids – along with a few lifestyle modifications like changes in diet – are often enough to deal with.
Duodenal ulcer symptoms in women
Each case could be unique, that’s why each person’s signs and symptoms may also vary. Even sometimes duodenal ulcer doesn’t have any symptoms, especially when the open sore is still mild (at early stages of the disease) .
But in general, a dull pain or burning sensation is the most common symptom of the disease, both in women and men. The pain is usually felt in the upper area of your abdomen, specifically between the belly button and sternum (breastbone).
Typically, the pain becomes more intense before meals or at night (when your stomach is empty). Sometimes the pain could be severe enough to wake you from sleep at night.
Digestive acid usually increases with empty stomach, making the pain get worse. You may get temporary relief from the pain when you eat food to buffer the acid or if you take antacids.
On the other hand, sometimes the pain may get worse when eating certain foods, particularly some which provoke elevated digestive acid level. Fatty foods, milk, acidic foods, and very spicy foods for examples!
How long the pain lasts can vary. It may last for a few minutes or longer. Even sometimes this could be a few hours, depending on how severe the open sore is! And it may come & go (chronic) until the open sore heals completely.
Duodenal ulcer symptoms in women, what else?
Besides upper abdominal pain, the open sore may also cause the following signs and symptoms:
- Feeling fullness (bloating).
- Easy to get feel very full even after eating a small amount of meal.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Feeling sick.
- Having indigestion.
Less often, the open sore might also cause more serious signs and symptoms such as anemia, appetite loss, weight loss without trying, feeling faint, breathing problem, vomiting blood, and passing tarry-dark stools (with blood). Some of these may signal ulcer complications such as internal bleeding.
This article is for general information only. For any abnormal signs and symptoms that persist or get worse (don’t relieve with lifestyle modifications) – seek immediate medical help without delay! Discuss more with healthcare professionals in your local area for more guidance.
Duodenal ulcer vs. menstrual cramps
While abdominal pain could signal serious medical condition, often it has to do with a regular thing such as menstrual cramps in women of childbearing age.
Pain associated with menstrual cramps is usually felt in the lower abdomen, not in the upper abdomen. What you eat also wouldn’t have an effect on the pain! Sometimes the pain may radiate to inner thighs, hips, or lower back.
Other symptoms may include; loose stools, upset stomach, and feeling of excessive pressure in the belly .
Other possible causes of abdominal pain in women
Abdominal symptoms (including abdominal pain) are probably more common in women, according to MSD manual. There are several answers on this, one of the main ones could be hormonal fluctuations (let’s say menstrual period, pregnancy, and menopause).
In older women, for example, menopause may cause abdominal discomforts more likely especially in those with endometriosis, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), and inflammatory bowel disease.
It seems there are a wide range of conditions to blame for female abdominal discomforts. Besides stomach and duodenal ulcers, the following common health conditions may also cause abdominal symptoms in women: