Ulcers can be agonizing craters that form deep in our digestive tract or blistering sores on our skin. But what causes these violent lesions? Let’s dive into the science behind some common ulcers.
Stomach ulcers – the painful pits of despair
In the stomach, bacteria are often the culprit. The mischievous microbe Helicobacter pylori burrows into the protective mucus lining and inflicts damage, allowing stomach acid to carve out ulcers like water eroding limestone caverns. Certain medications, like aspirin, can also irritate the stomach lining. Other ulcer instigators include smoking, drinking, stress and family history.
The main signs of stomach ulcers are burning pain, especially between meals or at night, nausea, vomiting, weight loss and even blood in severe cases. Tests like endoscopies and breath tests identify the bothersome bacteria. Treatment often includes a cocktail of antibiotics to annihilate H. pylori plus antacids or medications to reduce stomach acid. For some unlucky sufferers, surgery is needed to remove damaged tissue.
Mouth ulcers – annoying and painful oral craters
Canker sores are shallow, non-contagious lesions that appear inside the mouth, marring the smooth surfaces of the cheeks, gums or tongue. While the exact cause is uncertain, potential triggers include stress, hormones, genetics or a hyperactive immune system. These innocuous-looking ulcers bring severe discomfort, provoking pain when eating or talking. Healing typically occurs within a couple weeks.
After ruling out concerning conditions, canker sore treatment focuses on numbing the pain. Over-the-counter rinses, gels and ointments can provide relief, as can natural remedies like salt water or honey. Avoiding acidic or spicy irritation helps on the road to recovery. In some cases, prescription steroid creams may be needed to calm the oral ulcers.
Skin ulcers – wounds that mar the surface
Skin ulcers are open wounds that damage the outer layer of our body’s barrier. Infection, injury, medical conditions or aging skin can lead to these often stubborn sores. Skin ulcers cause pain, oozing and skin loss. Proper wound care and treatment of underlying factors are key to heal these dermatological divots.
While challenging to deal with, ulcers have been studied extensively. We now better understand what causes them, reducing their mystery. From stomach bacteria to mouth irritants to skin damage, ulcers arise from various triggers. Thankfully, we now have many ways to treat these crater-like sores and restore health to affected areas.