Generally, when we speak about ulcers, we refer to peptic ulcers. These are known as open sores or lesions which develop in the stomach, upper small intestine and esophagus. These ulcers could be caused by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, frequent use of pain relievers, and excess acid production. Again, there are other kinds of ulcers which affect the soft tissues of the mouth and sometimes, the base of the gums. These are better known as canker sores or aphthous ulcers, the cause of which is still unclear.
Signs and Symptoms of Ulcers
As I have already defined what peptic ulcers are, symptoms of ulcers in the esophagus, intestine and stomach are the same. Canker sores may have a different set of symptoms though.
# So to begin with the common symptoms of ulcers in the intestines, esophagus and stomach, a burning pain may be felt in the area that lies between the navel and breastbone. It may last from a few minutes to several hours and somehow, seems to flare at night. The pain may also worsen with an empty stomach. In most cases, the pain seems to subside with eating certain foods. Disappearing and then flaring up for a few days or weeks is another nature of the pain. There are rare cases when the symptoms may get worse. These might include throwing up blood, passing black or tarry stools, and experiencing unusual weight loss. Changes in appetite may also be a symptom and so are nausea and vomiting.
# Coming to the symptoms of ulcers in the mouth or let's say, canker sores, they are mostly associated with their types. Most mouth ulcers appear in a round or oval shape. They have a white or yellow center with a red border. Some sores are known as minor sores, and these are oval-shaped and the most common in occurrence. As the name suggests, these sores are smaller and heal without any scarring. Then comes major canker sores; less common, greater in size, with irregular edges and may take about 6 weeks to resolve. They cause scarring. Herpetiform canker sores are smaller but occur in clusters. They may appear in a group of up to 100 sores, having irregular edges. 1 - 2 weeks, is the time required for these scars to heal. Apart from all these symptoms of ulcers, there might be others such as fever, listlessness and even swollen lymph nodes.
Peptic ulcers may have severe repercussions if left untreated. Complications may include internal bleeding, perforation in the wall of the stomach (which might cause an infection), and production of scar tissue that can cause blockage of food through the digestive tract.
Symptoms of ulcers in women which are associated with peptic ulcers are managed by medicines which kill the H. pylori bacteria (cause of peptic ulcers) and reduce the level of stomach acid to hasten recovery. These medications may involve antibiotics, acid blockers, antacids, proton pump inhibitors, and cytoprotective agents.
Regarding mouth ulcer treatment, minor canker sores do not require any. But for those that are painful or large, medicines may incorporate mouth rinses, OTC pastes, oral medications and nutritional supplements. And if the mouth ulcers are a manifestation of some other illnesses, then the underlying condition would be treated.