Can stomach Ulcers Cause Headaches and Dizziness? Gastroenterologist Explains.

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What you need to know:

  • Headache and dizziness are not reported symptoms of uncomplicated stomach ulcers.
  • The most likely explanation for such a condition is stomach ulcer medications. Many acid-reducing drugs frequently cause headaches and dizziness as a side effect.
  • Also, acute or chronic blood loss from complicated stomach ulcers can lead to anemia. Anemia frequently causes headaches and dizziness.
  • H. pylori is a stomach bug that causes stomach ulcers. H. pylori was linked to headache and dizziness in research. 
  • See a doctor if you have signs of bleeding peptic ulcers such as vomiting of blood, black stool, fast heartbeats, shortness of breath, or extreme stomach pain. 

1. Headache and dizziness are not symptoms of uncomplicated stomach ulcers.

Simple, uncomplicated stomach ulcers don’t cause headaches or dizziness. 

The two symptoms are not documented as a frequent presentation of peptic ulcer disease. 

The following are the reported symptoms of stomach ulcers: (reference)

  • Asymptomatic in most of the cases (reference).
  • Pain in the upper middle part of your abdomen. 
  • Occasionally, you may experience pain or discomfort in the upper left or the upper right part of your abdomen. 
  • The pain may spread to the back (in the upper middle part opposite to your stomach).
  • If you have ulcers in the stomach, you will experience the pain immediately after eating.
  • If the ulcer is in the duodenum, You will experience the pain two to five hours after your meal or at night. 
  • Duodenal ulcer pain may also improve with eating.
  • Bleching after meals.
  • Bloating and a sense of fullness after eating.
  • Early satiety (unable to complete your meal).
  • Intolerance to fatty foods.
  • Nausea and occasional vomiting.
  • 46% of patients with peptic ulcer disease have symptoms of GERD as heartburn (reference).

More: Omeprazole side effects explained.

2. Headaches and dizziness can be side effects of stomach ulcer medications. 

Your doctor may prescribe stomach ulcer medications to treat peptic ulcers. The most commonly used drugs are:

  • Proton Pump inhibitors (as omeprazole, esomeprazole, rabeprazole, and others).
  • H2 blockers such as famotidine.
  • Antacids such as Al hydroxide.

Many of the above medications may lead to headaches and dizziness as a side-effect. This can explain why you got such symptoms after a diagnosis of a stomach ulcer.

The frequency of headache and dizziness as a side-effect from common stomach ulcer medications are:

DRUG SIDE EFFECT HEADACHE (%) DIZZINESS (%)
Omeprazole (Prilosec®) 7% 2%
Esomeprazole (Nexium®) 2-8% <1%
Pantoprazole (Protonix®) 12% <4%
Dexlansoprazole (Dexilant®) Adults <2%
Adolescents <5%
<2%
Famotidine (Acid Controller Max St®). 5% 1%

*Data in the above table are obtained from the Lexicomp® drug database

Review your list of medications. Call your doctor if headache and dizziness have started after taking any of the above Drugs.

Don’t stop or change your stomach ulcer medications without permission from your doctor. Stopping your medications may lead to problems such as stomach ulcer bleeding. 

More: Nexium Twice daily side effects and indications.

3. Complicated stomach ulcers may cause headaches and dizziness. 

Peptic ulcer disease (stomach and duodenal ulcers) may cause bleeding inside your stomach or duodenum).

If the blood loss is severe enough, you will develop anemia. Headache and dizziness are frequent symptoms of anemia.

Features suggestive for peptic ulcer bleeding:

  • New onset or worsening of stomach pain.
  • Vomiting of blood (hematemesis).
  • Passage of black tarry stool (melena).
  • Headaches and dizziness.
  • Poor effort intolerance.
  • Shortness of breath (especially with exertion).
  • Fast heartbeats.
  • Symptoms of low blood pressure as fainting, extreme dizziness, and maybe a coma.

Stomach ulcers can lead to chronic minimal blood loss. This pattern of chronic blood loss doesn’t cause evident hematemesis or melena. The only presentation of chronic blood loss is anemia.

Anemia can be the link between stomach ulcers, headaches, and dizziness.

Stomach bleeding is an urgent medical condition. Consult your doctor immediately if you experience one of the above symptoms.

4. H. pylori-induced ulcers and headache.

H. pylori bacteria is one of the common causes of stomach ulcers. H. pylori are linked to many extra-intestinal symptoms. 

In one study, researchers found a strong link between H. pylori infection and migraine headache.

During the same study, treatment of h. pylori resulted in:

  • Complete disappearance of migraine headaches in 17% of patients.
  • Partial improvement in 69% of patients. Partial improvement was in the form of reductions in the intensity, duration, and frequency of migraine attacks.

Several reports associated h. pylori to headaches and dizziness. However, we need more scientific evidence to prove the theory. 

Stomach ulcer patients routinely undergo h. pylori testing and treatments. You should discuss the issue of h. pylori with your doctor if you haven’t been tested for H. pylori.