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Heartburn or Stomach Ulcer – Some Key Differences

heart burn

Stomach ulcers and heartburn are common digestive ailments that are often confused with one another. Experienced frequently by people around the globe, both cause pain and discomfort in the stomach area. These two health problems are entirely different but may occur simultaneously to a few patients and that is what makes the condition worse.

stomach ulcers

Stomach Ulcers 

These are caused by the H. pylori bacteria that sticks to the lining of the stomach and the small intestine. These bacteria create inflammation and weaken the lining over time. This delicate lining is further damaged by the stomach acids and digestive enzymes leading to open sores which are commonly referred to as stomach ulcers.


This is caused when the stomach acids move up from the stomach to the esophagus. The lining of the esophagus is weaker than that of the stomach and thus these acids cause a burning sensation that feels to move up around the neck and the throat. This medical condition has nothing to do with the heart but since the discomfort is also felt around the chest, it is referred to as heartburn and at times also mistaken for a heart attack.

Though both stomach ulcers and heartburn are treated by a gastroenterologist, their causes, symptoms, and treatment are vastly distinct. Hence, only an accurate diagnosis can assure an appropriate treatment. Let us pinpoint some major differences between the two for your knowledge and understanding:

  1. Location: To analyze the issue, you must focus on the exact location of the pain and discomfort. Ulcers cause pain in the abdominal area right above the navel while heartburn leads to uneasiness and sharp pain in the throat and around the chest.
  2. Causes: Ulcers are not caused by the stomach acids but are irritated by them. Heartburn, also called acid indigestion or acid reflux is caused due to the upward movement of the digestive enzymes and stomach acids from the stomach to the esophagus. Overeating creates excessive pressure in the stomach which is also a leading cause of heartburn.
  3. Symptoms: Ulcers cause stomach pain towards the bottom of the rib cage on an empty stomach and most often lead to unintentional weight loss. Mild to severe pain in the chest usually after having meals along with difficulty in swallowing and chronic cough are the easily recognizable symptoms of heartburn. If you often have an unpleasant taste at the back of your mouth, it is also a clear case of heartburn.
  4. Eating food: Ulcers can be relieved by eating food as the pH level of food is better than that of an empty stomach. In heartburn, it hurts to eat food and the symptoms can get worse on overeating or consuming excessively spicy food with tomato sauces.
  5. Body Position: Ulcers are consistent and do not depend on the body posture whereas heartburn symptoms can be easily manipulated by changing the body positions. Lying down on bending over can cause the stomach acid to move up to the esophagus while sitting down or standing ensures that stomach acids remain in the stomach due to gravity pull.
  6. Treatment: Heartburns can be avoided by lifestyle changes that involve losing weight, giving up on smoking and alcohol, eating low-fat food and totally avoiding acidic or spicy food. While mild and infrequent heartburn can be treated with antacids, for stomach ulcers you must visit the doctor who will treat the condition by prescribing antibiotics.

stomach pain

Both heartburn and stomach ulcers are digestive disorders that cause a similar feeling of a burning sensation in the gut. These both make you feel equally bad but can be treated well with medicines if acknowledged before any complications arise.

Dr. Anand Kumar at Ananya Gastroenterology is an extensively trained gastroenterologist with over 27 years of experience. For stomach ulcers, heartburn cases or any other gastrointestinal problems, do not think twice before scheduling your consultation with Dr. Anand Kumar. We always ensure appropriate treatment for speedy recovery of your ailments!

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