Ulcers: Types, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment

A sore that develops on the skin or the mucous membranes might be referred to as an ulcer (such as the lining of the stomach or mouth). Ulcers can be very shallow or very deep, and their size can range from very little to very enormous. Ulcers are frequently excruciatingly painful and may also be accompanied by a variety of other symptoms, including bleeding, drainage, or trouble swallowing.

Types of ulcers

Ulcers come in a variety of forms, including the following:

Peptic ulcers are open wounds that develop in the lining of the esophagus, stomach, or small intestine and can be quite painful. They are frequently brought on by either an infection with a bacteria known as Helicobacter pylori or the consumption of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) (NSAIDs).

Decubitus ulcers are a type of ulcer that can also be known as pressure ulcers or bed sores. These ulcers develop when there is sustained pressure on a particular area of the skin, such as when a person is bedridden or unable to move around.

Venous ulcers are so-called because they develop in the legs as a result of impaired circulation. People who have varicose veins are often the ones that suffer from this condition.

Ulcers caused by diabetes: Diabetes is linked to a number of complications, including poor circulation and nerve damage, both of which can lead to ulcers.

Ulcers of the cornea are so-called because they develop on the surface of the eye and are frequently brought on by either an infection or a damage to the cornea.

Malignant ulcers: Ulcers that are cancerous and can be seen anywhere on the body, including the mouth, skin, and digestive tract.

Causes of ulcers

Ulcers can have a variety of causes, including the following:

Infections: Ulcers may be brought on by bacterial infections, viral infections, or infections with other types of microorganisms. Peptic ulcers, for instance, are frequently brought on by an infection with the bacteria Helicobacter pylori.

Ulcers may also be brought on by inflammation, either in the digestive tract or on the skin. Inflammation can be a cause of both. Ulcers in the digestive system can be caused by inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, for instance.

Pressure: Decubitus ulcers, also known as bed sores or pressure ulcers, occur when there is sustained pressure on a specific region of the skin, such as when a person is bedridden or immobile. These ulcers are painful and can lead to infection if left untreated.

Physical Injury or Damage to the Skin or Mucous Membranes: Ulcers can also be caused by physical injury or trauma to the skin or mucous membranes.

Medications: The use of some medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids, might raise the chance of developing ulcers in the body.
Ulcers can also be an indication of a more serious underlying problem, such as cancer or a gastrointestinal disorder. This is something to keep in mind when diagnosing a patient with ulcers.

Symptoms

Ulcers can cause a wide variety of symptoms, and these symptoms might change based on the type of ulcer and where it is located. The following is a list of common ulcer symptoms:

Ulcers can be uncomfortable, especially when they are placed in the digestive system or on weight-bearing sections of the body.

Infection. Ulcers can spread to other parts of the body. Consuming food or using antacids can help alleviate the discomfort, regardless of whether the pain is continuous or intermittent.

Bleeding Ulcers have the potential to produce bleeding, either through the ulcer itself or through blood vessels that are located nearby. Because of this, one can get anemia or another issue.

Discharge: Certain types of ulcers, such peptic ulcers, can cause discharge, which can be pus or blood.

Difficulty swallowing Ulcers in the esophagus or stomach can make it difficult to swallow or provide the sensation that food is becoming lodged in the throat.

Additional symptoms Additional symptoms may include stomach discomfort, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or weight loss, depending on the location of the ulcer. These symptoms may also be present.

Diagnosis

Depending on the probable origin of the ulcer and its location, a diagnosis of an ulcer can be made using any one of a number of different techniques and tests. The following are some common diagnostic approaches for ulcers:

Examine the patient’s physical condition to look for symptoms of ulcers, such as redness, swelling, or discomfort. This may be done during a physical examination by a medical professional.

An endoscope is a thin, flexible tube that contains a light and a camera. This tube is used in the technique known as endoscopy, which allows for an internal examination of the body. The diagnosis of ulcers in the digestive system, such as peptic ulcers in the stomach or oesophagus, can be accomplished by the use of endoscopy.

X-rays: X-rays can be used to identify ulcers in the digestive system or to check for foreign items that may be the cause of an ulcer. X-rays can also be used to check for ulcers in other parts of the body.

In a procedure known as a biopsy, a tiny piece of tissue from the ulcer is removed for further examination in a laboratory. This can be useful in determining the aetiology of the ulcer and eliminating the possibility of other illnesses.

Tests on the blood It is possible to use blood tests to screen for anaemia or infection, both of which are possible contributors to ulcers.

Other testing: Other tests, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan or an ultrasound, may be performed to identify ulcers or to screen for underlying disorders that may be the cause of the ulcer.

Treatment

The treatment of ulcers is contingent not only on the kind and origin of the ulcer, but also on the degree to which the symptoms are shown. The following are some of the most typical treatments for ulcers:

Pharmaceuticals Antacids, proton pump inhibitors, histamine H2 receptor antagonists, and antibiotics are only some of the medications that can be used to treat ulcers (for ulcers caused by infection).

Diet: Some people who have ulcers may need to make modifications to their diet, such as staying away from meals that are very hot or foods that are known to irritate the digestive system.

Adjustments to one’s lifestyle Making changes to one’s lifestyle, such as giving up smoking or avoiding alcohol, might help prevent ulcers or enhance the body’s natural healing process.

Surgery In certain instances, it may be required to have surgery in order to address ulcers or the underlying diseases that are the source of the ulcer.

Additional treatments: Additional therapies, such as wound care or physical therapy, may be utilised in the treatment of ulcers or in the prevention of complications.

How to protect oneself from getting ulcers

The following are some of the preventative measures that may be taken:

  • Eating a diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, and grains that are whole will help to reduce the risk of developing ulcers. It might also be beneficial to avoid foods that are both hot and foods that irritate the digestive tract.
  • Identify effective strategies to handle stress Because prolonged stress can play a role in the development of ulcers, it is essential to find methods that are capable of properly managing stress. This may involve the use of methods such as psychotherapy, physical activity, or relaxation techniques.
  • Stay away from alcohol and tobacco: Since both smoking and drinking an excessive amount of alcohol can raise the risk of ulcers, it is crucial to steer clear of these activities entirely or to kick the habit if you are already a smoker or drinker.
  • Take precautions when using medicinal products: It’s possible that taking some medications, such nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids, might make you more susceptible to developing ulcers. If you are taking these drugs, it is critical that you follow the directions provided by your healthcare practitioner and that you report any adverse affects you experience.
  • Observe proper hygiene: Keeping the skin clean and dry will help to avoid skin ulcers, such as decubitus ulcers, which are caused by prolonged contact with a hard surface.
  • Ensure proper circulation Because poor circulation can raise the risk of venous ulcers, it is essential to ensure proper circulation by being active and avoiding lengthy periods of sitting or standing. Vein ulcers are painful sores that form in the veins of the legs.
  • Take care of any underlying conditions: If you already have an underlying illness, such as diabetes or inflammatory bowel disease, it is essential to take the necessary steps to take care of the condition in order to lower your risk of developing ulcers.[1]https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/gastroenterology_hepatology/_docs/_pdfs/esophagus_stomach/peptic_ulcer_disease.pdf[2]ulcers1.pdf (cdc.gov)[3]

Reviewed by:

Dr. Amjad Hayyat

MBBS, FCPS

Medical specialist

Makhdoom medical complex, Sargodha, Pakistan

For our experts information click here

References

References
1https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/gastroenterology_hepatology/_docs/_pdfs/esophagus_stomach/peptic_ulcer_disease.pdf
2ulcers1.pdf (cdc.gov)

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