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August 06, 2019

Ulcers: What causes them (and how to prevent them)

Here are the most common types – from peptic ulcers to canker sores

Adult Health Stomach
Stomach pain 08062019 Image by Darko Djurin /from Pixabay

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Ulcers, open sores anywhere on your skin or inside your body that won’t heal properly, are very common, but how much do you really know about them?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Each year there are 500,000 to 850,000 new cases of peptic ulcer disease and more than one million ulcer-related hospitalizations.”

An infection or weak immune system and sometimes even stress can cause or exacerbate an ulcer. The most common types of ulcers include peptic ulcers, bed sores, leg and foot ulcers and canker sores.


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Peptic ulcers are ulcers that develop in the stomach lining, small intestine or esophagus. Those that occur in the stomach are referred to as gastric ulcers, while those that develop in the small intestine are duodenal ulcers. Esophageal ulcers are generally found in the lower part of the esophagus.

Bed sores, also known as pressure sores, are a serious concern for the sick and frail who spend long periods of time in bed or a wheelchair, or are immobilized in some way. Hospital staff have to be particularly vigilant about bed sores on their patients.

Leg or foot ulcers can become a problem if you have varicose veins or a history of blood clots or leg inflammation. Foot ulcers are a risk for people living with diabetes because of nerve damage that leads to a loss of sensation. In addition, arterial or ischemic ulcers on toes and heels develop from poor blood circulation.

The Cleveland Clinic describes canker sores as “small shallow ulcers that occur in the lining of the mouth.” They often pop up due to an injury of the mouth.

When it comes to treatment, some ulcers will go away on their own, but usually you will need medication and sometimes even surgery to treat them. Patients with peptic ulcers usually are prescribed a combination of antibiotics to kill off the bacteria and antacids to neutralize stomach acid.

Treating underlying conditions, eating right, limiting alcoholic intake and reducing stress can all lessen your risk for ulcers. If you find you are prone to them, talk to your doctor about specific ways to prevent them.

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