How to differentiate between Acid Reflux and Ulcer

How to differentiate between Acid Reflux and Ulcer

Acid reflex and ulcer are often confused with each other. They both may cause burning sensation or pain in stomach, causing confusion between the two. However, symptoms might be slightly similar but they are two different types of diseases.


What causes acid reflux and ulcer? 

When we eat food, a valve named lower esophageal sphincter (LES) closes, and does not allow food and digestive acids to flow back into the esophagus. However sometimes esophagus does not function properly and acids enter the esophagus. This is called acid reflux. This is a common condition and may not cause any problem to the person concerned. However, if it starts happening frequently, and the person suffers from heartburn, then it might be gastroesophgeal reflux disease or GERD.

Ulcer, on the other hand, occurs due to bacteria H. pylori. It weakens the mucous lining of the stomach and causes the acid to burn the internal lining of the stomach. This results in burning sensation and pain in the stomach.


How to differentiate between them 

Following steps can be used to find out whether a person is suffering from acid reflex or ulcer:

  • Pay attention to what you are eating and note down if certain food causes discomfort. You will be able to correlate between the food items and pain. Also note down the time when the pain occurs. The pain that wakes you up in night may be due to ulcer.
  • If you have bad taste in your mouth, feel dryness in the throat or suffer from sore throat, you may be suffering from acid reflux. Take an antacid, if you feel better, then you might be suffering from acid reflux.
  • The burning sensation in the mid chest or in mid abdomen is caused due to acid reflux. The symptom will worsen if you bend over or lie down.  If you suffer from pain between the belly button and the breastbone, you might have an ulcer.
  • If a blood test confirms the presence of H. pylori, you will have to undergo further tests to confirm ulcer.
  • Barium study can diagnose an ulcer. Your doctor may also perform endoscopy, where he will insert a long flexible tube with a camera attached to it down your throat. The tube passes through esophagus into the stomach and allows doctor to see what is causing the problem, and detect ulcer if any.
  • Take medical help to get rid of the problem.


Symptoms of Acid Reflux and Ulcer are relatively similar. To avoid stomach problems, try to eat healthy food and exercise regularly. Smoking and excess of alcohol too are harmful for your health.

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