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"What's the difference between indigestion and an ulcer?"

ZocdocAnswersWhat's the difference between indigestion and an ulcer?


I have frequent indigestion and stomach cramping. Could it be an ulcer? I'm only 21 (and male), but I'm worried I have an ulcer. Is it possible to get one at a young age like mine?


Indigestion is a general term that is used to describe pain or discomfort in the abdominal area that is often associated with food. An ulcer is a physical wound where the inner lining of the stomach or small intestine wears away exposing the inner tissues. Indigestion can be caused by many different types of gastrointestinal problems. An ulcer is caused by a combination of the acidic fluid in the stomach and often overgrowth of bacteria. Certain medications can also be associated with an ulcer. Stomach or small intestine ulcers often cause a burning or gnawing like pain in the upper stomach. It usually is not described as cramping. Cramping abdominal pain can be caused by an allergy to the food you're eating or an intolerance to a food (such as lactose intolerance). It can also be caused by problems with the gall bladder. I suggest that you schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. He or she can listen to your description of the symptoms and also perform a thorough physical exam. After that, your doctor may decide to place you on a medication such as an anti-acid drug. Alternatively, your doctor may decide to perform more testing such as an abdominal ultrasound to look at your gall bladder. Finally, your doctor may decide to refer you to a gastrointestinal specialist for further evaluation.

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