Types of Ulcers – Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

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What is an ulcer?

An ulcer is a sore that heals slowly and reoccurs often. Ulcers can appear both on the internal and external body membranes. It can occur on any body part, from the eye to the foot. An ulcer is a break or discontinuity in the body membrane (epithelium) that disrupts the normal function of the affected organ.

Image of a sore on the skin

An ulcer is formed when stomach acid damages the wall of the digestive tract. The most common causes include the bacteria Helicobacter pylori and the usage of anti-inflammatory pain killers like aspirin.

 Following are some of the common forms of ulcers:  

  • Pressure ulcers or otherwise known as bedsores
  • Genital ulcer – an ulcer that occurs on the genital area
  • Ulcerative dermatitis – a skin disorder related to bacterial growth
  • Diabetic foot ulcer– a major complication of the diabetic foot
  • Corneal ulcer – an inflammatory or infectious condition occurring in the cornea
  • Mouth ulcer– an open painful sore inside the mouth.
  • Peptic ulcer or stomach ulcer – a sore in the lining of the stomach
  • Venous ulcer – a wound that occurs due to poor functioning of valves in the veins

Types of ulcers

Various types of ulcers

Corneal ulcers  

Corneal ulcers occur on the surface of the eye (cornea). These ulcers give the feeling that something is present in the eye. Redness and pain are common symptoms of corneal ulcers.  

Infection, dry eye syndrome, corneal injury, or eyelid issues cause corneal ulcers. This results in vision problems when left untreated.  

Picture of ulcer in the eyes

Mouth ulcer  

Mouth ulcers are small, round sores on the mouth and are often referred to as canker sores. They occur on the tongues, gums, and inside of the cheeks and lips. Mouth ulcers can be caused due to certain diseases, sensitivity to acid foods, hormonal changes or vitamin deficiency.  

Genital ulcers  

Genital ulcers are sores that appear in the genital areas, such as the anus, vagina or penis. They can occur as a result of sexually transmitted diseases (Herpes, syphilis). An injury can also cause genital ulcers.  

Open genital sores can turn into HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases.  

Bedsores  

Bedsores are pressure sores or ulcers caused due to bed rest for a prolonged time. They are likely to grow deep and form open wounds.  

Leg and foot ulcers  

Ulcers on the leg and foot take a longer time to heal and form red splotches. Injury or blood flow issues are the primary cause of these ulcers. Diabetes can also lead to ulcers due to nerve or blow flow issues. It is, therefore, necessary to check the leg every day. 

Ulcer on the foot

What is a peptic ulcer?  

A peptic ulcer is a wound or sore on the inner walls of the stomach or in the duodenum. Duodenum is the first part of the small intestine. A peptic ulcer may also develop above the stomach in the oesophagus — the organ that joins the mouth to the stomach.

What causes peptic ulcers?

The causes of peptic ulcers include

  • An infection developed by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori)
  • A long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), similar to aspirin and other pain killers

Who is more likely to develop a peptic ulcer?  

There is still no clear evidence to determine how H. pylori infection spreads, but it is understood that contaminated food, water, or eating utensils may make the infection spread. Moreover, H. pylori-induced peptic ulcers are more common among those who have been infected with H. pylori. Besides, H. pylori in the saliva of infected persons could spread through direct contact with saliva. Most people contract H. pylori infection during young age, and in many cases, it remains dormant for several years. Adults have a very rare chance of contracting H. pylori.

What are the signs and symptoms of peptic ulcer disease?  

A blunt or burning ache in the abdomen is the most usual symptom of a peptic ulcer. A person can feel this pain anywhere between the navel and the chest bone. The pain usually occurs when a person’s stomach is empty such as between meals or during the night and reduces after eating food or taking medicines to lessen the pain.   The pain could last for minutes to hours and keeps occurring for several days, weeks, or months until cured completely.

Other mild and common symptoms include  

What are the difficulties of peptic ulcer conditions?

Complications of peptic ulcer condition involve

  • Internal bleeding happens when gastric acid or a peptic ulcer ruptures a blood vessel
  • obstruction — when a peptic ulcer blocks the way of food trying to leave the stomach
  • perforation — when a peptic ulcer grows deeper and breaks fully through the stomach or duodenal wall
  • peritonitis — when infection or inflammation develops in the peritoneum, or filling of the abdominal depression

Managing Peptic Ulcers:  

Eating habits, diet, and nutrition play a part in causing and preventing peptic ulcer disease. In the past, people were common in the practice of drinking milk to treat a peptic ulcer. While milk may make a peptic ulcer feel better for a short period, it increases stomach acid, creating a peptic ulcer even worse. People with peptic ulcers should take advice from health professionals on drinking milk while a peptic ulcer is treated. Factors like stress and spicy food do not cause peptic ulcers. However, they will make symptoms worse. Consuming alcohol and cigarette smoking can also worsen a peptic ulcer and slow down healing.

 Peptic Ulcer Diet Guidelines  

  • Limit or avoid foods that cause an increase in stomach acid.
  • Too much stomach acid can worse the condition of an ulcer, which can cause pain. Some of the foods that should be avoided are – Alcohol, regular and decaffeinated coffee and other liquids such as strong tea or aerated drinks.
  • Limit or avoid consuming foods that may directly irritate the ulcer
  • Spicy elements like chillies or spicy sauces and other highly seasoned foods. However, not all spices cause irritation to the bowel, therefore you only need to limit or avoid those that cause pain or discomfort.
  • Good nutrition is the prime factor that heals the ulcer
  • Aim to have foods from all groups so that your meals are well balanced.
  • Try to make sure you are including a variety of fruits and vegetables throughout the day.
  • It helps when you limit high-fat foods such as full-fat dairy products, muffins, croissants or fried meats.
  • Timing meals can help reduce symptoms.
  • In case of stomach ulcers, stick to a meal pattern that reduces symptoms. For instance, eating more frequently throughout the day. Eating 3 meals and 3 snacks per day may bring relief to pain or alleviate discomfort from the ulcer.
  • In the case of gastric ulcers, you may get the best relief from symptoms when you eat less frequently throughout the day. Three meals and no snacks per day can be followed.
  • Make it a point to include additional sources of soluble fibre in every meal to help prevent an ulcer from relapsing. These foods include seasonal fruits and leafy vegetables, oatmeal or oat bran and legumes like dried beans and peas.

The above-mentioned foods are only a list of the most common food that may be not suitable for ulcers. A detailed list and more recommendations on a diet which may cause you pain or discomfort when you have a peptic ulcer can be provided by a doctor.  It may also help to keep a food journal to keep track of these trigger foods.

Will ulcers go away?  

Ulcers may arise due to an underlying health condition. The effect of treatment for the disease affects if the ulcers go away. Certain ulcers will get healed and then reappear later on. When the ulcer is chronic, regular doctor consultation is necessary.  

How long will it take for an ulcer to heal?  

The time it takes for an ulcer to heal depends on the type and severity. Arterial ulcers take many months to heal and may occasionally not heal. Peptic ulcers heal in a month or two. Mouth ulcers take up to a month to heal. They may reoccur anytime. Genital ulcers heal depending on their cause. Proper treatment makes the ulcer go away.  

Conclusion  

Ulcers are sores on the body membrane. Ulcers can arise in any part of the body, both internal and external. They may be mild or severe and can be treated with proper diet and over-the-counter medications. Consulting a medical professional is necessary to manage ulcers.  

FAQs  

What are the three common types of ulcers?  

Peptic ulcer, oesophagal ulcer and mouth ulcer are three common ulcer types.

Which ulcer is harmful?

A peptic ulcer can increase the risk of abdominal cavity infection as it can perforate the intestinal walls.

What causes ulcers? 

One of the common causes of ulcers is Helicobacter pylori (H pylori) infection. High intake of acidic foods also triggers ulcer development.

What helps ulcers naturally?

Probiotics, garlic, honey, fruits, vegetables, turmeric, flavonoids and berries help heal ulcers naturally. 


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The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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