Difference Between Heartburn and Ulcer

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between Heartburn and Ulcer

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Heartburn and ulcers may feel the same, but they are two different conditions. The best way to tell the difference between heartburn and an ulcer is by identifying their symptoms, causes, and when to see a doctor. If you think you have an ulcer, don’t try to self-diagnose—see your doctor right away as they can prescribe treatment and prevent more serious health issues.

Although both heartburn and ulcers can cause similar symptoms, they are two different conditions. While ulcers occur in your stomach lining, heartburn usually happens lower down in your esophagus. Unlike an ulcer, however, heartburn isn't a serious medical condition and won't result in any long-term damage to your body. If you have symptoms of either condition and think you may have a gastrointestinal problem, contact a doctor as soon as possible. They will be able to determine if you need treatment for either heartburn or an ulcer.

A lot of people believe that acid reflux is just another name for heartburn, but they're two very different things. The most common symptom of acid reflux is heartburn, which occurs when stomach acid backs up into your esophagus (the tube that connects your mouth and throat to your stomach). This causes a burning sensation in your chest that spreads upward toward your neck and throat. Other symptoms include coughing, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, bad breath, and chest pain after eating certain foods like chocolate or spicy foods.

Heartburn vs Ulcer

Both heartburn and ulcers are common digestive conditions, but they are not related. Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux that occurs when your stomach’s acidic juices travel up your esophagus. An ulcer is a painful sore on your stomach lining that may also produce symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Unfortunately, many people think they have heartburn when they have an ulcer; if you suffer from recurrent indigestion or heartburn pain you should talk to your doctor immediately to rule out a more serious condition like an ulcer. Understanding what causes these two different disorders will help you figure out if you should be seeking medical treatment for your symptoms. Here’s a look at how to tell them apart The first step in figuring out whether you have heartburn or an ulcer is determining where your discomfort originates. Does it start in your chest area, just under your breastbone? Or does it start in your lower abdomen, just above where your belly button would be? If you experience discomfort in both areas then it could be a sign of something else entirely (like pancreatitis). The next step is determining how long the pain lasts and where exactly you feel it. If a burning sensation lasts for more than three hours and feels like someone lit a match in your throat then you probably have acid reflux (and can follow our tips below). However, if there’s persistent pain with food then it’s likely to be caused by an ulcer.

Difference Between Heartburn and Ulcer in Tabular Form

Parameters Of Comparison Heartburn Ulcer
Define Heartburn is burning pain, or discomfort, behind your breastbone that happens when stomach acid backs up into your esophagus An ulcer is a break in a mucous membrane, such as one of the linings of your stomach or small intestine


It isn't exceptionally extreme yet in the event that not dealt with soon, it can form into GERD. It is very extreme and complete dietary direction alongside drugs is required.


OTC medications that play out the balance cycle and prescriptions like tulsi drops and stomach-settling agents can help. Milk and curd are liked with rice on account of a sedated diet though medications like omeprazole and rabeprazole are recommended alongside anti-microbials.


Brought about by acid reflux and an uncommon hole in the middle between dinners. It can likewise be a symptom of specific anti-infection agents. Either by sporadic flooding propensities or by Helicobacter pylori (Bacteria)

What is Heartburn?

Heartburn is burning pain, or discomfort, behind your breastbone that happens when stomach acid backs up into your esophagus. Some people refer to heartburn as acid indigestion or simply indigestion. Heartburn occurs when you eat foods that irritate sensitive stomach tissue. If you have heartburn once in a while, you probably can take steps on your own to control it. But if you experience heartburn more than twice a week, you should see your doctor. The problem could be something more serious, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This condition causes chronic heartburn and other symptoms, including difficulty swallowing and persistent cough. The longer you go without treatment for GERD, the greater your risk of developing complications from it. Untreated GERD also increases your risk of developing Barrett's esophagus—an abnormal change in cells lining your lower esophagus that may lead to cancer over time. That’s why it’s important to treat GERD right away. Treatment options include lifestyle changes, medications, and surgery. For most people with GERD, simple lifestyle changes can provide relief. Your doctor might recommend: Avoiding certain foods and beverages. You might want to cut down on acidic or spicy foods, caffeinated drinks, and alcohol—especially before bedtime.

Symptoms to Look Out for Heartburn

Feel like your chest is burning and that your throat may close. You might also feel like you are choking or have a lump in your throat. This pain can be felt on one side of your chest, behind your breastbone, under your shoulder blade, and even in between your shoulder blades. Symptoms of an ulcer: Feel abdominal cramping that won’t go away after eating a meal. The pain is usually on one side of the abdomen and doesn’t move around from place to place. If you press into that area with a finger, it hurts; when you release pressure from there, the pain will not recur until you press again. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating, and weight loss. People who have been diagnosed with stomach cancer will sometimes complain of back pain as well. This pain is caused by tumors growing in their digestive tract and pushing against their spine. Because these tumors grow over time, they cause more and more back pain as they get bigger. People who experience sudden severe back pain should see a doctor immediately because it could be something else entirely such as kidney stones or appendicitis. The only way to know for sure what is causing your back pain is to visit a doctor. Back pain accompanied by fever and/or chills could be a sign of infection, which requires immediate medical attention. Also, if your legs hurt along with your back—particularly if you have trouble walking—you need to seek medical help right away. When our kidneys aren't working properly, toxins build up in our bloodstream and make us sick.

Treatments for Heartburn

Most heartburn is caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This condition occurs when stomach acid leaks into your esophagus. While there’s no cure for GERD, you can take medications to alleviate symptoms and prevent complications. An antacid is used to reduce the burning sensation in your chest caused by stomach acid that flows back up into your esophagus; these are often sold over-the-counter as Pepto-Bismol or Maalox. There are also prescription drugs like Nexium and Prevacid, which reduce inflammation in your esophagus so that it doesn’t dilate as much when exposed to stomach acid. Additionally, some people find relief from GERD with lifestyle changes such as losing weight and eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day.

What is Ulcer?

An ulcer is a break in a mucous membrane, such as one of the linings of your stomach or small intestine. Most ulcers are found in your digestive tract, and they can cause pain and irritation. Ulcers may form because of infections, allergies to certain foods or medicines, stress, cancer treatments, and other factors. Many people use antacids to treat heartburn (indigestion) caused by acid reflux. But if you have an ulcer instead of heartburn, antacids might not be enough—and they could make things worse. If you think you might have an ulcer, talk with your doctor about what’s causing it and how to manage it.

Symptoms to Look Out for Ulcer

The most common symptom of a peptic ulcer is recurring stomach pain, especially after eating. The pain is usually in your upper abdomen, just below your breastbone. Other symptoms include loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. The discomfort will usually go away after a meal or two, but sometimes you may feel like you’re having indigestion even though there’s no food left in your stomach. Severe ulcers can also cause low-grade fever and achy muscles. Heartburn: An inflamed esophagus often causes heartburn, which is different from a peptic ulcer because it's on top of your stomach (or duodenum) instead of deeper down in your gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms are similar to those of an ulcer, but they typically don't last as long. Some people have burning sensations that start in their chest and travel up to their throat; others have burning sensations that start at their lower chest or abdominal area and travel up to their throat. If you get heartburn more than twice a week, talk with your doctor about what might be causing it.

Treatments for Ulcer

Several treatments are available for ulcers. Antacids can help manage heartburn, stomach acid, and ulcers, but they don’t treat H. pylori (the bacteria responsible for some ulcers). To treat an H. pylori infection with antibiotics, you'll need to take a prescription antibiotic over several weeks or months. You might also choose to use two antibiotics at once—an integrated approach that is more effective than using just one type of drug. Additionally, there are new drugs on the market that can kill off H. pylori without causing side effects. These include Xifaxan, which is taken as a pill by mouth, and Nexium Esomeprazole Magnesium Delayed-Release Capsules (Nexium 24HR), which is taken twice daily as an oral suspension in your mouth. In rare cases when these methods fail to cure your ulcer, surgery may be needed to remove part of your stomach or small intestine if scar tissue is blocking food from moving through your digestive tract properly. There are other medications used to treat ulcers, including sucralfate and misoprostol. Your doctor will recommend treatment based on your symptoms and medical history. He or she will also consider any potential interactions between medications you're taking. If you have certain health conditions such as kidney disease, liver disease, or diabetes, make sure to let your doctor know before starting any new medication.

The Main Difference Between Heartburn and Ulcer in Points

  • Heartburn is a feeling of discomfort and burning in your chest, throat, and neck. It can also cause pain behind your breastbone.
  • An ulcer is a sore in your stomach lining that develops when acids irritate your stomach tissue.
  • With both of these conditions, foods such as chocolate, caffeine, and acidic fruits like oranges and tomatoes can aggravate symptoms
  • In case of heartburn, the pain goes away after you burp or pass gas. But with ulcers, pain does not go away even after you have passed gas or burped.
  • If you are experiencing heartburn more than twice a week for three weeks, consult your doctor to get tested for H pylori infection. This infection causes peptic ulcers.
  • H pylori bacteria live in our stomachs and are usually harmless unless they grow out of control. When that happens, they can cause gastritis, which is inflammation of the lining of your stomach. The resulting damage can lead to an ulcer.
  • An individual with H pylori infection may experience nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, and abdominal pain.
  • Heartburn is caused by reflux of acidic contents from the stomach into the esophagus. It can be triggered by eating spicy foods, drinking alcohol, lying down after a meal, smoking, and wearing tight clothing.
  • An ulcer, on other hand, is caused due to infection with H pylori bacteria that causes peptic ulcers.
  • It can also be triggered by smoking and taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen.
  • Reflux of gastric acid from the stomach into the esophagus occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is weak. The LES is a circular muscle at end of the esophagus.
  • There are some risk factors for heartburn
  • Age: The older you get, your chances of developing GERD increase. This may be because your body produces less saliva as you age, which helps neutralize stomach acids. -Smoking: Smoking irritates your throat and makes it more likely for acid to back up into your esophagus.
  • People who smoke are about twice as likely to develop GERD than nonsmokers.


Heartburn and ulcers are very different conditions with unique symptoms. It’s important to know how to tell them apart so you can get proper treatment. If you believe you may have either, see your doctor and tell him/her all of your symptoms—don’t leave out any detail because doctors need as much information as possible to diagnose you correctly. Most importantly, don’t try to treat these conditions on your own; getting help is key to managing either condition properly and getting relief from pain.


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"Difference Between Heartburn and Ulcer." Diffzy.com, 2023. Tue. 06 Jun. 2023. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-heartburn-and-ulcer-787>.

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