Different Types of Ulcers

Different Types of Ulcers

by Yenny (SU)

The digestive system is very sensitive, and its health depends on many factors. The system consists of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, duodenum, and intestines. Most ulcers occur in the digestive system, usually in the duodenum.

Ulcers are wounds or open sores that recur or do not heal, and they can become chronic. These can be painful when aggravated. Sometimes they disappear on their own, but most require treatment for complete healing.

Ulcers are named per their location except for peptic ulcers, which can occur anywhere along the digestive tract. Ulcers can occur anywhere from the digestive tract to the genitals, legs, and feet.

How Do Ulcers Develop?

Ulcers in the digestive tract occur when the lining of the stomach or intestine has been eaten away by stomach acid and digestive juices. Symptoms vary widely, depending on the location of the ulcer.

Some ulcers are asymptomatic, while others cause intermittent burning and gnawing sensations. If the ulcer is in the digestive system, it can create a feeling of emptiness and hunger.

Common Ulcers

Most ulcers are in the digestive tract. Below, we review some of the most common types of ulcers that occur in this system:

Colon Ulcer

Also called ulcerative colitis, a colon ulcer is caused by an inflammation of the colon. Tiny ulcers develop in the lining of the colon, and they can spread. While exact causes are usually unknown, they might be connected to the immune system and heredity.

Symptoms of a colon ulcer an include abdominal pain with audible sounds, bloody stools, diarrhea, malnutrition, and weight loss. Bowel movements may be frequent, rapid, and forceful, or infrequent and difficult. 

Ulcerative colitis is a lifelong condition. Management includes anti-inflammatory medication to relieve cramping and abdominal pain, and colon removal surgery in severe cases. 

Staying hydrated, identifying and avoiding trigger foods, and eating frequent, regular, smaller meals are helpful. Your doctor will recommend multivitamins in the case of malnutrition.

Mouth Ulcer 

A mouth ulcer, also called an aphthous ulcer or a canker sore, forms on the inside of the mouth or on the gums. They can be minor (2-8 mm), major (bigger and deeper), or herpetiform – which are clusters of small pinhead sores forming a larger sore.

Causes of mouth ulcers include food allergies, stress, or tissue injuries from braces, dentures, or simply brushing too roughly or with bristles that are too hard. Gastrointestinal tract (GI) disease, medications like painkillers, and nutritional deficiency are contributory factors.

Symptoms include loss of appetite, fever, pain, white or gray sores with red edges, tenderness, and swollen lymph nodes in advanced cases.

Minor ulcers heal on their own within 2-3 weeks. Medications, mouth rinse, and ointments may be prescribed.

Peptic Ulcer

A peptic ulcer is a general term that can refer to any type of ulcer in the stomach or duodenum (the upper portion of the small intestine). Stomach ulcers are called gastric ulcers; ulcers in the upper part of the small intestine are called duodenal ulcers. Both of these are peptic ulcers.

Peptic ulcers are caused by exposure to pepsin, which is normally present along with hydrochloric acid in the stomach and duodenum lining. When this acid burns through the inner surface of the digestive tract, it erodes the protective mucous in the tract – leading to ulceration.
Symptoms can include pain from the navel (belly button) to the chest, usually occurring at night or when the stomach is empty. Other symptoms are changes in appetite, unexplained weight loss, nausea, and vomiting with or without blood. Dark or black stools can indicate internal bleeding and should be checked by a doctor immediately.

Treatment of peptic ulcers includes combinations of antibiotics and medications to kill bacteria, reduce acid production, stabilize stomach acids, and promote healing. It’s helpful to avoid smoking, minimize stress, limit or avoid alcohol, and eat regular, healthy meals.
Who Can Help Treat Ulcers?

Ulcers are usually simple to treat and can be resolved quickly. However, an ulceration can indicate both acute and chronic health disorders.

Because certain ulcers may be an indication of a serious disease such as cancer, an early diagnosis is crucial. Seek medical help, especially if they fail to heal within a week or two.

If you suffer from any of these symptoms, or you want to learn more about ulcers or other gastric conditions, call Anne Arundel Gastroenterology Associates at (410) 224-2116 today, or complete our convenient online form to schedule an appointment. We look forward to serving you and helping you get back to enjoying life again.