In addition to pain, heartburn, and acid reflux, stomach ulcers can cause jaundice, dizziness, and shortness of breath in people assigned female at birth.

Stomach ulcers, also called peptic or gastric ulcers, form on your stomach lining and can affect people with bacterial infections or who overuse nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Let’s discuss causes, diagnostic tests, and the symptoms of stomach ulcers in people assigned female at birth.

The general signs of a stomach ulcer include:

  • abdominal pain that gets better after eating
  • heartburn
  • reduced appetite
  • unexplained weight loss
  • indigestion

Additionally, people assigned female at birth may experience bleeding, which could lead to iron deficiency anemia (IDA).

Iron deficiency anemia is a form of anemia where there is a reduced number of red blood cells in your blood due to a lack of iron in your body. People with a uterus are at an increased risk of IDA due to bleeding, though anyone can develop it.

Red blood cells help transport oxygen to body tissues. Without them, you may develop symptoms like:

  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • dizziness

Low iron levels can be common in people assigned female at birth. They can happen for various reasons including if you’re pregnant or do not eat a lot of foods that contain iron.

Certain factors can increase your likelihood of developing stomach ulcers. These include:

Research indicates that there’s a higher likelihood of stomach ulcer diagnoses in both African American and Hispanic populations.

If you’re pregnant, it’s important to discuss a treatment plan with your doctor. One study states that peptic ulcer disease cases have increased in those who are pregnant and can cause a life threatening situation.

There are two main causes of stomach ulcers. These are:

  • Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection: You may have an increased chance of developing stomach ulcers if you get H. pylori bacteria from other people with the infection. This can happen when you come into contact with their saliva, vomit, food, or water.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs like aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen can irritate your stomach lining and make you more prone to having ulcers. This can happen if you take NSAIDs for a long time or in high doses.

Other causes include:

Some conditions may cause symptoms similar to stomach ulcers, so it may help to know the differences and identify the signs to know when you should contact a doctor.

These conditions include:

  • Gastritis: Gastritis irritates your stomach lining and causes inflammation. You may also have bloating, abdominal pain, and indigestion. The condition mostly affects those who take NSAIDs, use alcohol, or have chronic stress.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): GERD occurs when stomach acid or contents flow backward to your esophagus, the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach. Symptoms include heartburn, belching, and swallowing difficulties.
  • Pancreatitis: Pancreatitis happens when you have redness and swelling in your pancreas. It can be a short- or long-term health problem. Symptoms may include upper abdominal pain, a rapid pulse, and nausea.

You may consider seeing a gastroenterologist if someone in your family has had stomach ulcers, as you may have an increased likelihood of developing them.

It may also be beneficial to visit your gynecologist throughout your pregnancy. They can monitor your health and fetal development as ulceration can be fatal during pregnancy.

Ulcers can sometimes cause bleeding. It’s recommended you see a doctor if you have signs of anemia, such as:

These are the tests that your doctor may perform to determine if you have a stomach ulcer:

  • Physical exam: A physical exam helps them check if your abdomen is swollen or tender.
  • Blood tests: A blood test can check whether H. pylori are present.
  • Urea breath test: In a breath test, you swallow a urea capsule or liquid, and if you have H. pylori, the bacteria transforms into carbon dioxide. You may also have to exhale carbon dioxide into a container so that the medical team can test it. A nonradioactive test may be used for children and people who are pregnant.
  • Stool test: Healthcare professionals may use a stool sample to test for H. pylori or blood. If you have blood in your stool, it may indicate that you have a stomach ulcer.
  • Upper endoscopy: In this procedure, a doctor will run a thin tube with a camera attached down your throat to inspect the lining of the throat, stomach, and small intestines to look for ulcers. It’s the gold standard diagnostic tool for ulcers.

The following medications may be used to treat your stomach ulcer if you have a bacterial infection:

If NSAIDs have caused the ulcer, your gastroenterologist may have to change your treatment and stop NSAID use.

The following are commonly asked questions about stomach ulcers in people assigned female at birth.

How do I know if I have an ulcer in my stomach?

Stomach ulcers can cause abdominal pain, weight loss, and heartburn. It’s always a good idea to get medical help if you have any of these symptoms.

Stomach ulcers can also cause bleeding and raise the risk of iron deficiency anemia in people assigned female at birth. If you have dizziness or pale skin, IDA may be causing these events.

What is the fastest way to cure a stomach ulcer?

A doctor can create a treatment plan for your stomach ulcer. Managing stress levels and avoiding eating spicy foods and drinking alcohol may also help speed up the healing process.

H. pylori infection or NSAIDs can cause ulcers on the lining of your stomach. Ulcers can affect anyone and can cause pain, indigestion, and heartburn.

They can also increase the risk of iron deficiency anemia if they bleed. If you’re experiencing IDA symptoms, such as fatigue or shortness of breath, it’s important to see a doctor.