Ulcers are basically sores that develop in the lining of the digestive tract. These sores are spots where the stomach’s or intestine’s lining has been eaten away by stomach acid and digestive juices. Ulcers typically heal and recur.
In general, the names of the ulcers specify where they are found. An ulcer in the part of the small intestine called the duodenum is known as a duodenal ulcer, while a stomach ulcer is commonly referred to as a peptic ulcer. Symptoms will depend on where the ulcer is located and can vary widely. Some people may have no symptoms while others experience an intermittent burning and gnawing sensation along with feeling empty and hungry.
Just as there are different types of ulcers, there are also different mechanisms that can cause them. Here are some factors that can contribute to ulcer development:
What Causes Stomach Ulcers
Stomach ulcers aren’t necessarily caused by one single factor. The decrease in the stomach’s mucus lining that leads to an ulcer is usually caused by one of the following:
Certain factors and behaviors can put you at higher risk for developing stomach ulcers:
A number of symptoms are associated with stomach ulcers. The severity of the symptoms depends on the severity of the ulcer.
The most common symptom is a burning sensation or pain in the area between your chest and belly button. Normally, the pain will be more intense when your stomach is empty and it can last for a few minutes or several hours.
Other common symptoms include:
Talk to your doctor if you experience symptoms of a stomach ulcer. Even though discomfort may be mild, ulcers can worsen if they aren’t treated.
How Are Stomach Ulcers Diagnosed?
Diagnosis and treatment will depend on your symptoms and the severity of your ulcer. To diagnose a stomach ulcer, your doctor will review your medical history along with your symptoms and any prescription or over-the-counter medications you’re taking.
To rule out H. pylori infection, a blood, stool, or breath test may be ordered. In a breath test, you’ll be instructed to drink a clear liquid and breathe into a bag, which is then sealed. If H. pylori is present, the breath sample will contain higher-than-normal levels of carbon dioxide.
Other tests and procedures used to diagnose stomach ulcers include:
The most common symptom of a stomach ulcer is a burning or gnawing pain that develops in your abdomen (tummy).
However, some stomach ulcers aren’t painful and are only noticed when acomplication of a stomach ulcer develops, such as bleeding from the ulcer.
The pain caused by a stomach ulcer can travel out from the middle of your tummy up to your neck, down to your belly button, or through to your back.
It can last from a few minutes to a few hours and often starts within a few hours of eating. You may also wake up in pain during the night.
Taking antacids (indigestion medication) may relieve the pain temporarily, but it will keep coming back if the ulcer isn’t treated.
Less common symptoms of a stomach ulcer can include:
Some people also find they burp or become bloated after eating fatty foods.
Visit your GP if you experience persistent symptoms of a stomach ulcer.
Contact your GP or NHS 111 immediately, or go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department, if you develop signs of a serious complication, including:
Mouth ulcers are painful sores that appear in the mouth. Although they’re uncomfortable, they’re usually harmless and most clear up by themselves within a week or two.
Mouth ulcers are common and can usually be managed at home, without seeing your dentist or GP. Visit your pharmacist first, unless your ulcer has lasted longer than three weeks.
Mouth ulcers are usually round or oval sores that commonly appear inside the mouth on the:
They can be white, red, yellow or grey in colour and swollen.
It’s possible to have more than one mouth ulcer at a time and they may spread or grow.
Mouth ulcers shouldn’t be confused with cold sores, which are small blisters that develop on the lips or around the mouth. Cold sores often begin with a tingling, itching or burning sensation around your mouth.
Mouth ulcers can be painful, which can make it uncomfortable to eat, drink or brush your teeth.
It’s usually safe to treat mouth ulcers at home. See your GP or dentist if:
Several years ago, the H. pylori bacterium was claimed to be the primary cause of stomach ulcers. Consequently, total elimination of H. pylori from the body through the use of antibiotics has become the conventional medical treatment of choice for ulcers in the stomach and small intestine.
Eliminating H. pylori often does let ulcers heal, but researchers (and patients) are discovering that people who have completely killed off H. pylori colonies subsequently develop gastroesophageal reflux.
Research from McGill University indicates that H. pylori in the digestive tract helps protect against acid erosion of the esophagus and small intestine. When 87 patients with ulcers were given antibiotics and followed for a year, 21 percent of them developed inflammation of the esophagus, and 37 percent showed evidence of gastroesophageal reflux (compared with only 8 percent in the non-antibiotic group).
This conventional medical ulcer treatment of selectively wiping out the H. pylori strain of bacteria with antibiotics ultimately disrupts the balance of bacteria in the gut and leads to other digestive problems. A more reasonable solution is to restore gut health by improving bacterial balance and using natural, alternative therapies for treating ulcers.
Treatment will vary depending on the cause of your ulcer. Most ulcers can be treated with a prescription from your doctor, but in rare cases, surgery may be required.
It’s important to promptly treat an ulcer. Talk to your doctor to discuss a treatment plan. If you have an actively bleeding ulcer, you’ll likely be hospitalized for intensive treatment with IV ulcer medications, and you may also require blood transfusion.
If your stomach ulcer is the result of H. pylori, you’ll need antibiotics. For mild to moderate stomach ulcers, your doctor will usually prescribe the following medications:
Symptoms of an ulcer may subside quickly with treatment. Even if your symptoms disappear, you should continue to take medicine prescribed by your doctor. This is especially important for H. pylori infections to ensure that all bacteria are destroyed. Doctors will also suggest that you avoid smoking, alcohol, and any medications or foods that can trigger symptoms.
Certain side effects associated with stomach ulcer treatment include:
These side effects are temporary. Talk to your doctor about changing your medication if you experience extreme discomfort as a result of these side effects.
In very rare cases, a complicated stomach ulcer will require surgery. These include ulcers that:
Surgery may include:
Complications Associated with Stomach Ulcers
Seek treatment as soon as you believe that you might have a stomach ulcer. The longer an ulcer remains untreated, the more likely you are to develop complications. You should seek medical treatment if you experience any of the following symptoms:
These could be signs that the ulcer has eroded through the stomach, or broken a blood vessel. Scar tissue development is another possible complication. The tissue can prevent food from moving from the stomach into the small intestine. All of these scenarios require intensive therapy, usually in a hospital setting.
nt-family:”inherit”,”serif”;mso-bidi-font-family: Arial;color:#333333;border:none windowtext 1.0pt;mso-border-alt:none windowtext 0in; padding:0in’>endoscopic biopsy: a piece of stomach tissue is removed so it can be analyzedStomach ulcers, also known as peptic or gastric ulcers, are open sores in the lining of the stomach. Because of the amount of acid present in the stomach, when ulcers occur, they are often extremely painful. The most common cause of stomach ulcers is the bacteria helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori. Ulcers may also be caused by overuse of painkillers, such as aspirin, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
Stomach ulcers are often treated with antibiotics or medications to reduce, block, or neutralize stomach acid. There are also natural home remedies you can use to help ease the symptoms of a stomach ulcer and help it heal.
Research suggests that flavonoids, also known as bioflavonoids, may be an effective treatment for stomach ulcers. Flavonoids are compounds that occur naturally in many fruits and vegetables. Foods and drinks rich in flavonoids include:
However, some foods and drinks that contain flavonoids — such as citrus fruits and red wines — can irritate a stomach ulcer.
Flavonoids are referred to as “gastroprotective,” which means they defend the lining of the stomach and could allow ulcers to heal. According to theLinus Pauling Institute, there are no side effects of consuming flavonoids in the amount found in a typical diet, but higher amounts of flavonoids may interfere with blood clotting. You can get flavonoids in your diet or take them as supplements.
Don’t let that long first word give you a stomach ache — deglycyrrhizinated licorice is just plain old licorice with the sweet flavor extracted. One studyshowed that deglycyrrhizinated licorice might help ulcers heal by inhibiting the growth of H. pylori. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice is available as a supplement. You can’t get this effect from eating licorice candy, though. Too much licorice candy can be bad for some people. Consuming more than 2 ounces daily for more than two weeks can make existing heart problems or high blood pressure worse.
Probiotics are the living bacteria and yeast that help keep your digestive system moving. They are present in many common foods, particularly fermented foods. These include:
Honey is far from simply sweet. Depending on the plant it’s derived from, honey can contain up to 200 elements, including polyphenols and other antioxidants. Honey is a powerful antibacterial and has been shown to inhibit H. pylori growth. As long as you have normal blood sugar levels, you can enjoy honey as you would any sweetener, with the bonus of soothing your ulcers.
Garlic extract has been shown to inhibit H. pylori growth in lab, animal, and human trials. If you don’t like the taste (and lingering aftertaste) of garlic, you can take garlic extract in supplemental form. Garlic acts as a blood thinner, so ask your doctor before taking it if you use warfarin or other prescription blood thinners.
Cranberry is known for its ability to fight urinary tract infections by preventing bacteria from settling on the walls of the bladder. Cranberry and cranberry extract also may help fight H. pylori. You can drink cranberry juice, eat cranberries, or take cranberry supplements.
Unfortunately, no specific amount of consumption is associated with relief. Too much cranberry in any form may cause stomach discomfort whether you have ulcers or not, so start with small amounts and increase gradually. In addition, many commercial cranberry juices are heavily sweetened with sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup, which can also cause stomach upset and add empty calories. Avoid those juices by buying juice sweetened only by other juices.
Mastic is the sap of a tree grown in the Mediterranean. Studies of the effectiveness of mastic on ulcers are mixed, but at least one study shows that chewing mastic helps fight H. pylori. If your ulcers are not responding to other treatments, you might want to give mastic gum a try, since it doesn’t seem to be associated with any side effects. You can chew the gum or swallow mastic in supplement form.
A diet centered on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is not just good for your overall health. According to the Mayo Clinic, a vitamin-rich diet can help your body heal your ulcer. Foods containing polyphenols, an antioxidant, can protect you from ulcers and help ulcers heal. Polyphenol-rich foods and seasonings include:
Some foods can make ulcers worse, while some provide a preventive and healing effect. Greasy and acidic foods are most likely to irritate your stomach, as are spicy foods.
To reduce ulcer pain, avoid:
Milk’s ability to coat the side of a glass may have you thinking that it also creates a protective barrier in your stomach. In fact, drinking milk may initially soothe your ulcer pain. But in the long run, milk is not good for ulcers. It seems to make things worse by causing your stomach to produce more acid.
If you’ve ever had a hangover, you know the effects that alcohol can have on your stomach. It also is directly associated with H. pylori infections, meaning it contributes to stomach ulcers and can make existing ones worse.
Excessive drinking is considered more than one drink a day for women, and more than two for men. If a couple of drinks after work is how you unwind, you might want to consider a healthier alternative.
It can take some time, teamwork, and determination to find the right treatment for your ulcers, but don’t give up hope: Ulcers can be cured. In addition to a treatment plan agreed upon by you and your doctor, you can incorporate natural approaches that can give you some relief and accelerate healing. Adding plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet and reducing alcohol intake will almost certainly get you on the road to health.
Mouth ulcers don’t usually need to be treated, because they tend to clear up by themselves within a week or two.
However, treatment can help to reduce swelling and ease any discomfort. This may help if you keep getting mouth ulcers or your mouth ulcer affects eating and drinking.
Things you can do to speed up healing include:
You can buy several types of mouth ulcer treatment from a pharmacy. Speak to your pharmacist about the best treatment for you. Options include the following:
If necessary, you may be prescribed a course of stronger corticosteroids to help reduce pain and swelling, and speed up healing.
Corticosteroids are available on prescription as tablets, mouthwash, paste or spray, but are not suitable for children under 12.
In a few cases, a long-lasting mouth ulcer can be a sign of mouth cancer. Ulcers caused by mouth cancer usually appear on or under the tongue, although you can get them in other areas of the mouth.
Risk factors for mouth cancer include:
It’s important to detect mouth cancer as early as possible. If mouth cancer is detected early, the chances of a complete recovery are good.Regular dental check-ups are the best way to detect the early signs.
In many cases, the reason for mouth ulcers is unclear. Most single mouth ulcers are caused by damage to the lining inside of the mouth. For example:
It’s not always clear what causes mouth ulcers that keep returning, but triggers are thought to include:
Your genes are also thought to have a role – around 40% of people who keep getting mouth ulcers report that it runs in their family.
Mouth ulcers can sometimes be caused by certain medical conditions, such as:
Mouth ulcers can sometimes be caused by certain medications or treatments, such as:
It may not be possible to prevent mouth ulcers, because they’re often caused by things you can’t control (such as a family history or a medical condition).
However, the following may help to reduce your risk of developing mouth ulcers: