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Last Updated: Mar 19, 2020
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Ulcer - Symptom, Treatment And Causes

About Types Symptoms Causes Diagnosis Treatment Complications Long term effects Home remedies Expert advice

What are Ulcers ?

Ulcers are breaks or holes in the protective lining of the stomach or duodenum. Duodenal ulcers are more common than stomach ulcers. Comparatively rare, esophageal ulcers, which forms in the esophagus (swallowing tube) are often the result of alcohol abuse or exposure to medications like certain anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics.

While secretion of excess stomach acids plays a key role in the formation of ulcers, in a recent research, it has also been found that bacterial infection is another major cause of ulcers. There are medical evidence that Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria is present in more than 80% of stomach ulcers and 90% of duodenal ulcers.

What are the types of ulcer?

TYPES OF ULCERS are:

  1. PEPTIC ULCERS:

    These develop on the inside lining of the stomach and the upper portion of the small intestine or esophagus. They form when digestive juices damage the lining of the stomach or intestine. These are most often caused by inflammation after being infected by H.pylori and long-term use of painkillers. There are three types of peptic ulcers:

    • Gastric ulcers
    • Oesophageal ulcers
    • Duodenal ulcers
  2. ARTERIAL ULCERS:

    These are open sores that develop on the outer side of ankle, feet, toes and heels. They develop from damage to the blood vessels due to lack of blood flow to the tissue. Arterial ulcers appear as red, yellow or black with hairless skin and leg pain.

  3. VENOUS ULCERS:

    It is the most common type of leg ulcers and is often formed on the leg, below the knee, and on the inner area of the ankle. They are formed because of damaged veins which is caused by inadequate flow of blood back to the heart. A person may also have inflammation, swelling, itchy skin, scabbing and discharge.

  4. MOUTH ULCERS:

    These are small sores or lesions that develop in the mouth or at the base of gums. They are also known by the term canker sores. Mouth ulcers are triggered by biting the inside of the cheek, hard teeth brushing, food allergies, hormonal changes, vitamin deficiencies, bacterial infection and other serious illnesses.

  5. GENITAL ULCERS:

    These develop on the genitals including vagina, penis, anus or surrounding areas. Genital ulcers usually occur because of trauma, inflammatory diseases, sexually transmitted infections or allergic reactions to skincare products. They are accompanied by a rash, pain, itching, swollen glands in the groin and fever.

What are the early symptoms of an ulcer?

The early symptoms of ulcers may vary from one person to another. In general, the notable symptoms are as follows:

  • Having a burning sensation and pain in the stomach. It is mainly due to stomach acid which makes the condition worse in the stomach. The pain can be reduced by eating certain foods and acid-reducing medicines.
  • Intolerance to fatty foods
  • Having heartburn sensation
  • A feeling of fullness or bloating
  • Vomiting or nausea, in some cases, vomiting may appear to be in red or black color
  • Dark bloody stools
  • Experiencing appetite changes
  • Having unexplained weight loss

What are the causes of ulcers?

Causes of ulcers are as follows:

  • Stomach Ulcers are more likely to develop in people having a sedentary lifestyle or poor eating habits.
  • Oesophageal ulcers often result from exposure to medications such as certain antibiotics or anti-inflammatories and alcohol abuse.
  • Ulcers also form as a result of excessive stomach acid secretion, consuming fatty and oily foods, alcohol, caffeine and tobacco. All of these factors contribute to a build-up of stomach acids which decay the protective lining of the stomach, esophagus and duodenum.
  • According to a recent theory, bacterial infection is also one of the causes of peptic ulcers. For example, H.pylorii is present in 80% of stomach ulcers and 90% of duodenal ulcers.
  • Overuse of over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen, alcohol consumption, psychological stress and smoking exacerbate the formation of ulcers, especially in those with H.pylori.
  • Stomach ulcers are more probable to occur in elderly people. With advancing age, the pylorus relaxes and allows excess bile to seep up into the stomach which erodes the stomach lining.
  • People with type A blood group are more prone to get cancerous stomach ulcers.
  • Duodenal ulcers develop in those who have an O blood group type. This is because people of this blood group are unable to produce certain substances on the surface of blood cells that protect the lining of the duodenum.

How to diagnose ulcers?

  • Urea breath test:

    The patient is diagnosed using a urea breath test where a specific drink is given to patient which gets broken down by H.pylori bacteria and the breath is then analyzed to see if he/she has H.pylori infection.

  • Stool antigen test/Blood test

    A blood test is done to analyze whether it contains antibodies to H.pylori which is nowadays replaced by stool antigen test.

  • Gastroscopy

    This is done to look inside the stomach directly and detect whether or not it contains an ulcer. The process involves passing an endoscope with a camera at one end into the mouth and the duodenum. A mild sedative may be given before the procedure and an anesthetic may be sprayed onto the throat to make the procedure more comfortable.

    The images captured by the camera usually confirm or rule out the ulcer. However, sometimes a small tissue sample may also be needed to be taken and tested for the same. This is usually an outpatient procedure and the patient is usually sent home the same day.

  • Endoscopy:

    Endoscopy is another procedure to diagnose ulcers. PPIs and H2 receptor antagonists are used to reduce acid levels until the swelling goes down. If an obstruction is caused by scar tissue, it may either need endoscopic balloon inflation.

How to treat ulcers?

Ulcers are easier to treat usually with antacids and antibiotics. There are also several other drugs that reduce the amount of acids produced by the stomach. A person suffering from ulcers should consult a physician. Ulcers if left untreated can lead to serious illnesses like anemia and stomach carcinoma.

Most of the ulcers are treated using various medications and in some cases, surgical procedure is required. Antibiotics may be used to eradicate H.pylori whereas anti-ulcer medications are used to inhibit the acid secretions and heal ulcers.

In cases of bleeding or perforated ulcers, Esophagogastroduodenoscopy may be performed and surgery is recommended. Your physician may advise to quit smoking, limit alcohol consumption and avoid overuse of NSAID's to prevent the development of ulcers.

What are the complications of ulcer?

Complications of these are quite rare but can get very serious. Some of the complications of stomach ulcers are as follows:

  • INTERNAL BLEEDING:

    It is the most common problem which occurs when the ulcer forms at the site of a blood vessel. Bleeding can either be slow and long-term leading to anemia or rapid and severe causing a person to pass blood in vomit or stools. Endoscopy is usually used to find the cause of bleeding.

  • PERFORATION:

    It is a rarer complication but can be quite serious if occurs. Perforation enables the bacteria of your stomach to escape and infect the lining of your abdomen causing peritonitis. From here, the infection rapidly spreads into the blood causing sepsis before spreading elsewhere. This comes with the risk of multiple organ failure and can be fatal if left untreated.

  • GASTRIC OUTLET OBSTRUCTION:

    In this condition, an inflamed stomach ulcer obstructs the normal passage of food through digestive tract. Symptoms are:

    • Repeated vomiting with large particles of undigested food particles
    • Persistent feeling of bloating or fullness
    • An easy feeling of fullness even after small meals
    • Unexplained weight loss

What are the long term effects of ulcers?

The ulcers, when left untreated for a long time, can lead to the following situations:

  • Bleeding: Patients may experience internal bleeding and blood loss, leading to anemia and blood in vomiting or stools. This may require hospitalization or transfusion.
  • Infection: The ulcer when left untreated can perforate through the walls of the stomach or small intestine and can cause serious infection in the abdominal cavity region.
  • It can lead to the blockage of the passage of the food via the digestive tract and thus can lead to symptoms of vomiting, nausea, weight loss, swelling in the intestine, etc.

What are the home remedies for an ulcer?

Home remedies for ulcer are as follows:

1. Flavonoids: Foods rich in these are:

  • Soybeans
  • Legumes
  • Red grapes
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Tea's especially green tea

These are gastroprotective and help fighting against H.pylori.

2. Probiotics: Foods containing these are:

  • Buttermilk
  • Miso
  • Kimchi
  • Yogurt
  • Kefir

They are helpful in wiping out the H.pylori and ease the recovery as well.

3. Honey: It is a powerful antibacterial and antioxidant and fights against H.pylori.

4. Garlic: The extract of garlic can prevent the growth of H.pylori as tested on lab, animals and human trials.

5. Cranberry

6. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains: Polyphenols are known for protecting the ulcers and foods containing them are dried rosemary, Mexican oregano, dark chocolate and flaxseed.

7. To reduce acid reflux pain, you must also limit:

  • Caffeine and other caffeinated beverages
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Chocolate
  • Chilies and hot peppers
  • Processed foods
  • Foods with a high amount of salt
  • Deep-fried foods
  • Acidic foods like citrus and tomatoes
  • Limit alcohol
  • Avoid over-eating
  • Avoid eating within three to four hours of sleep

What does Experts Says about ulcers :

As per medical experts, people with blood group A are more prone to get stomach ulcers, which at times can also get cancerous. It has also been observed that duodenal ulcers often happens with people with blood type O since they are unable to produce certain substance which helps in protecting the lining of their duodenum.

Popular Questions & Answers

I am having a strained marital relationship because of which I have lost interest in lyf I am nit living with my husband since one years due to our differences ours was arranged marriage three years ago I got emotionally attached wid my husband I still love my husband the most I sacrificed alot for him but he never reciprocated my love he never cared for me he was fever there for me in my lows my bad times he is self centred money minded selfish nd emotionless person but still I am emotionally attached wid him nd I am unable to get over him I cry everyday for him I want him back in my lyf as my husband we r not on talking terms ryt now he has blocked me on call nd watsaap which is adversely affecting my emotional mental nd physical health I feel sad lost interest in day to day activities feels worthless hopeless I feel I am good for nothing when I feel anxious about my lyf I don't know why I go through induced vomiting problem I feel lyk going to washroom again nd again nd pur my fingers in my mouth nd vomit nd increased urination increased thirst feeling of releasing stool by going to toilet repeatedly since 2019 I am having this problem I had arranged marriage in 2018 after that I fell in love nd when I didn't got that love back when I got emotionally attached wid him nd he didn't got attached or fell in love with me when I did everything to make him happy when I was there for him during hia financial crisis nd mortgaged all my jwelleries still he didn't developed any kind of emotional attachment or or compassion or love for him for him I don't exist in his lyf I don't to how to deal wid this emotional breakdown sometimes I feel lyk crying sometimes I retialate to my parents when they say something which I think its wrong which pinch me inside I want to lead a normal nd happy nd peaceful nd stable lyf but I am unable to do so on my own stress strain anxiety sadness emptiness is there ryt now I am on medication of a reputed psychiatric I am on lamitor od 100 mg two times a day betacap tr 40 mg petril md 1 mg atonil 10 mg qutan 25 mg nd prothiaden 50 mg I just want to know am I on right medication or medicine need to get changed or improvised also I gained weight in these two years I was 51 ryt now I am 70 kg I crave for food sweets due to depression I am having bulmania please doctor help me I need your valuable suggestions nd if medicine need to get changed or something please help me to deal wid this low phase worst phase of my lyf please doctor I need your help I will be helpful if you will give me suggestions nd advice md medicines.

Reparenting Technique, BA, BEd, Transactional Analysis
Psychologist, Bangalore
You look like you are in a serious mess and on medication. I suggest that you meet with a marriage counselor and have some therapy for both of you. Even if he does not come, you must go for some help for yourself. Relying on medication alone is no...
1 person found this helpful

I had pain in my esophagus while swallowing food. So I consulted a gastroenterologist and got an egd done. Reports shows mild esophagitis, moderate gastritis with mucosal polyp and h pylori positive. My reports are 2 months old. I didn't complete the antibiotic therapy. I continued to take esomeprazole and an antacid as needed. Since the past few days, I have the same problem of difficulty in swallowing despite taking the medications. Please tell me can something go seriously wrong in like 2 months or is it just inflammation? And should I take treatment for h pylori?

MBBS Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, DNB (ENT), Fellowship In Head & Neck Surgical Oncology, AO CMF Fellow, Fellowship Diploma in Lateral Skull Base Surgery
ENT Specialist, Gurgaon
H pylori treatment should be completed in it’s entirety as it can become a recurring problem, like you are experiencing. Do not worry, consult your gastroenterologist again and he will prescribe the fresh medicines again.
1 person found this helpful

Problem started three years ago only from nov to march. I.e. Winter season only .at present nose is blocked and sleep only for 3 to 4 hours at night and day no sleep. First took anti histamine medicine on advice from local Dr. And sometimes used otrivin and total block started last 15 days after starting flomist nasal spray as per physician. I am from mumbai please advice.

ENT Specialist, Delhi
Sir get an ncct pns done and share the ct pictures, shall advice accordingly. Meanwhile you can employ some remedies like reducing weight, avoid smoking and other habits, take adequate hydration, reduce salt and sugar intake. If you are not diabet...

I'm a 23 years old male. I vomited three times last night and had loose motions after experiencing stomach ache. Though i'm not experiencing stomach ache now but I vomited and had loose motions today too. I took ridol medicine for loose motions today. I feel nauseous even after drinking water.

Liver Transplant, Surgical Gastroenterology, Fellowship in Abdominal Multi Organ Transplant Surgery, MS - General Surgery, MBBS Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery
Gastroenterologist, Delhi
Do not take ridol. Sounds like food poisoning. If water loss is making patient dehydrated then may need some iv fluid replacement. And a course of antibiotics at the max.

Since few days after getting doctor prescription I started taking unienzyme tablet for acid reflux, I feel bloated stomach and I can't burp properly. And I can swelling around the area where thyroid glands exist. Kindly tell me is there any thyroid problem.

BHMS
Homeopathy Doctor, Noida
No it can be because of reflux. Still to be sure you can check your thyroid profile from some lab. This medicine (proton pump inhibitor (ppi).) will not cure problem. It only works by reducing the amount of acid in the stomach. The day you do not ...

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