Ulcer vs GERD, what is the difference between the two? Complete the Information Here!

Ulcers and GERD, two similar conditions but are not the same. Even though they are not the same, careless handling can cause both to become quite serious problems for your health.

Ulcers and GERD are two health conditions related to stomach acid problems. The symptoms are similar, such as pain in the upper part of the stomach, nausea and vomiting, and flatulence. However, although the symptoms are almost the same, they are different medical conditions. Knowing the difference between the two is important to determine appropriate treatment and avoid further complications.

So, what are the differences between ulcers and GERD? Here's the complete information!

What are Ulcers and GERD?

Before learning more about the differences between ulcers and GERD, you first need to understand the meaning of these two conditions.

1. Ulcer

Ulcer, or in medical terms gastritis, is a condition where the acidic walls of the stomach become inflamed due to infection with the Helicobacter pylori bacteria. Conditions like this are generally characterized by discomfort in the stomach. The stomach feels full, feels hot at the top, and bloated. Complaints of pain like this can appear during eating, after eating, or when eating late.


GERD ( gastroesophageal reflux disease) is a chronic condition in which stomach acid rises from the stomach to the esophagus continuously, causing irritation. This occurs because the valve or sphincter located in the lower esophagus weakens, so it is unable to close and prevent stomach contents from rising back up into the esophagus as it should.

Difference between ulcers and GERD

Previously, you may have thought that ulcers and GERD were the same condition. However, there are several factors that differentiate ulcers and GERD which can be seen in terms of causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

1. Cause

In terms of causes, ulcers can appear if someone eats late, experiences stress, consumes alcohol or drinks with high caffeine (such as coffee and tea), smokes, suffers from an autoimmune disease, takes certain medications, or is infected with bacteria. These factors cause inflammation of the stomach wall.

On the other hand, GERD is caused by increased stomach acid due to weakening of the valve at the bottom of the esophagus, which causes irritation of the esophageal walls. GERD can occur when a person eats too much, lies down after eating, takes drugs that have the side effect of heart palpitations, or experiences stomach pressure due to a hiatal hernia.

2. Symptoms

Ulcer sufferers often feel discomfort in the upper stomach area. Other symptoms you may experience include:

  • The stomach feels bloated and full even though you have only eaten a little.
  • Feelings of nausea and wanting to vomit.
  • Experiencing pain between the stomach and chest, or heartburn.
  • More frequent urination and belching.
  • Lack of desire to eat or decreased appetite.

Meanwhile, GERD symptoms can be described as follows:

  • A feeling of heat or burning in the chest area due to stomach acid rising into the esophagus ( heartburn ).
  • Feeling like there is a lump in your throat, making swallowing difficult and uncomfortable.
  • Experiencing regurgitation, the return of food or stomach acid fluid to the esophagus which causes a sour or bitter taste in the mouth.
  • Heartburn, often more intense than ulcers.
  • The heart beats faster or more irregularly, often triggered by increased stomach acid.
  • Shortness of breath and even coughing occurs because the respiratory tract becomes irritated due to increased stomach acid.

3. Treatment

In general, ulcers are a condition that can improve of course with the support of changes in diet and a healthy lifestyle. For treatment, the doctor will prescribe medication or antibiotics to treat H. pylori infection. In contrast, GERD treatment focuses more on improving the function of the lower esophageal valve or esophageal sphincter.

Lifestyle changes are also important for managing ulcers and GERD, including maintaining an ideal body weight, avoiding spicy and sour foods, not lying down immediately after eating, and avoiding smoking and alcohol consumption.

Ulcers and GERD are similar stomach problems, but they are different conditions when viewed in terms of causes, symptoms and treatment. Ulcers are more related to inflammation of the stomach, while GERD is related to reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus. To confirm the condition you are experiencing and get the right treatment, it is important to consult a doctor to get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Article written by Dr. Dr. Nella Suhuyanly, Sp.PD - KGEH, FINASIM (Internal Medicine Specialist - Gastro Entero Hepatology Consultant, EMC Alam Sutera Hospital).