Difference Between Gallstones and Ulcers

Common gastroenterological issues that can cause patients a lot of pain include gallstones and stomach ulcers. Despite the fact that these two disorders' symptoms are sometimes interchangeable, their causes and pathologies are very distinct.

Gallstones grow in the gallbladder and can travel down the bile duct, blocking it. It is possible for ulcers to progress to the point of bleeding in the stomach and the duodenum (the first section of the small intestine).

Both disorders need medical intervention, the urgency of which might range from doing nothing to requiring emergency surgery right now.

What are Gallstones?

Cholelithiasis, or gallstones, are solid deposits that occur in the gallbladder, a tiny organ located under the liver. The gallbladder is responsible for storing and releasing bile, a fluid produced by the liver that aids in food digestion. Also eliminated with bile are byproducts of hemolysis, such as cholesterol and bilirubin.

Although over 70% of persons with gallstones have no symptoms, gallstones can grow to a size that causes discomfort and perhaps require immediate medical attention.

Symptoms and Clinical Presentation − When a gallstone becomes stuck in the gallbladder neck or the cystic duct, it causes painful symptoms known as gallstone colic.

The clinical picture of gallstone colic consists of −

  • Pain that originates in the right upper abdominal corner (hypochondrium) and spreads out to the right shoulder.

  • Vomiting

  • There may be perspiration during a gallstone attack.

  • The presence of searing agony

The gallstone attack fades over time, and the patient is in good health in between episodes.

Diagnosis and Risk Factors − In most cases, doctors may make a diagnosis based on the patient's symptoms and signs, and then confirm it using ultrasound imaging. Stones can be observed in the gall bladder or the ducts that drain from the gall bladder on an ultrasound scan. Obesity, oral contraceptive usage, female gender, and pregnancy are among the most significant risk factors for gallstones.

Treatment − The majority of cases with gallstones are asymptomatic, thus no treatment is necessary. In most cases, lifestyle adjustments and weight reduction are enough to relieve gallstone symptoms (to prevent biliary colic). Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is a technique used to remove the gallbladder after other treatment options have failed. An ERCP can be done to unblock the bile duct if necessary.

What are Ulcers?

When the stomach's acid production is out of whack with the mucosa's (the lining) defense systems, peptic ulcer disease develops. Overuse of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and pain relievers like aspirin is a contributing factor, but the bacterium Helicobacter Pylori is the most prevalent culprit.

Symptoms and Clinical Presentation − Ulcers are characterized by the following symptoms −

  • Pain in the upper abdomen, or epigastrium, is a common sign of both gastric and duodenal ulcers.

  • After eating, you have this weird feeling, like your stomach is burning or something. For a stomach ulcer, this occurs quickly after meals, but for a duodenal ulcer, it occurs a few hours later.

  • Although foods and antacids alleviate the discomfort of duodenal ulcers, they do little for stomach ulcers.

Diagnosis and Risk Factors − Lifestyle factors such as smoking, heavy use of aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, high-stress levels, and heavy consumption of spicy foods are major contributors to the development of ulcers.

Treatment − An ulcer is often treated with a combination of three different types of treatment. This consists of two kinds of antibiotics plus a proton pump inhibitor, which decreases acid output within the stomach (amoxicillin and clarithromycin).

Differences between Gallstones and Ulcers

The following table highlights the major differences between Gallstones and Ulcers −




Affected organs/areas

Gallbladder, bile ducts

Stomach, duodenum


  • Clinical presentation

  • Ultrasound test

  • Clinical presentation

  • Endoscopy

Risk factors/causes

  • Obesity

  • Contraceptives

  • Pregnancy

  • Smoking

  • Excessive Aspirin intake

  • High stress

  • Excessive intake of spicy foods


  • Asymptomatic- none

  • Diet changes

  • Weight loss

  • Gallbladder removal

  • ERCP

  • Proton pump inhibitor

  • Amoxicillin

  • Clarithromycin


Gallstones and peptic ulcers are two digestive disorders that are infamous for making patients miserable. Although the two disorders have many symptoms (such as indigestion, post-meal pain, and a decline in quality of life), they are distinct in their causes, treatments, and potential consequences. Both problems necessitate medical care, and it's always best to get started on therapy as soon as possible.

Updated on: 23-Jan-2023

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