Ulcer pertains to a crater-like sore that occurs on the skin or in the lining of the digestive tract. An ulcer is the effect of the imbalance between the aggressive (such as hydrochloric acid and pepsin) and the protective (such as mucus secretion) factor. The reduced mucus secretion may be caused by the decreased blood flow and the presence of irritants in the digestive tract. These factors damage the mucous membrane, hence, decreasing mucus secretion. The symptoms of an ulcer in women will appear immediately once the lining of the digestive tract starts to erode.
Immediate treatment should be done to prevent complications such as bleeding ulcers wherein the blood leaks into the digestive tract because the ulcer has gone deeper into the blood vessel; obstruction of the opening of the intestines thereby preventing the food from exiting the stomach and move to the small intestine; and perforated ulcer wherein bacteria and some digested foods come in contact with the sore causing inflammation.
What are the different types of ulcer?
Symptoms of an ulcer in women vary depending on the type of ulcer.
- Mouth Ulcer – This is a sore that develops in the inner lining of the mouth. Mouth sores are round or oval shaped with gray, white or yellow coloring. Inflammation may occur on the floor of the mouth, tongue, cheeks and inner lining of the lips. It may cause a little discomfort especially during drinking and eating. Mouth ulcers are cured within 1 to 2 weeks if it is mild, but it may take several weeks for severe cases.
- Esophageal Ulcers – These sores occur in the esophagus. The pain is felt right below the breastbone; heartburn can also be experienced.
- Gastric Ulcer – This is also called the “poor man’s ulcer” because it is primarily due to an empty stomach. It is more common in ages 50 and above because older people lose their interest in food. Usually people with gastric ulcer are malnourished.
- Duodenal Ulcer – Because this is caused by stress, this type is also known as “executive ulcer”. This commonly affects individuals who are in their working, stressful years. Unlike gastric ulcer, people affected with duodenal ulcer are well fed.
- Genital Ulcers– This is primarily due to sexually transmitted diseases with single or multiple ulcers.
- Decubitus Ulcer– This can occur to patients who are bedridden due to their illness or weakness of the body. Pressure is exerted on skin for a long period of time. The sore can occur in the exposed parts of the body such as the hips, back and shoulders.
What are the causes of ulcer in women?
- Helicobacter pylori infection – The bacterium, H. pylori is a spiral shaped bacterium found in the stomach. The bacterium can go into the mucous layer that protects the cavity of the stomach and go to the surface of the stomach wall and attach itself. It produces an enzyme known as urease that can produce ammonia. The ammonia would neutralize the acidity of the stomach allowing the H. pylori to survive in the environment inside. But the bacteria would decrease the defenses of the stomach by thinning the protective layers of the stomach. The stomach would then be susceptible to inflammation due to the damaging effects of the hydrochloric acid and pepsin.
- Sexually Transmitted Infections – One of factors causing the symptoms of an ulcer in women is sexually transmitted infections. Genital ulcers are caused by Genital herpes, Syphilis, Genital warts, Granuloma inguinale, Chancroid, and Molluscum contagiosum.
- Nonsexually transmitted disease – During puberty, young women may have genital ulcers also due to atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis and vulvovaginitis.
- Stress – During stress, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is triggered. But if the SNS is exhausted then the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is activated. This causes the heightened motility of the stomach and increased level of the hydrochloric acid.
- Mouth Injury – Accidental biting of the tongue or lips and brushing the teeth so hard can cause symptoms of an ulcer in women specifically in the mouth.
- Cigarette smoking, alcohol and caffeine intake – These substances can damage and irritate the gastrointestinal mucosa. When a person stops smoking, the person may experience mouth ulcers as well because of the sudden cessation of the chemicals from the cigarettes in the body.
- Hormones – In the beginning of the menstrual period, pregnancy and menopause are known to produce symptoms of an ulcer in women.
Signs and symptoms of an ulcer in women
The most common symptom of an ulcer in women is pain. In addition to pain, there are more signs and symptoms of an ulcer in women that may occur such as red skin that hurts and feels warm in decubitus ulcers, hematemesis, melena, sudden weight loss, heartburn, rashes and itching in genital ulcers.
The signs and symptoms of an ulcer in women should not be ignored. Consult a physician immediately once the symptoms are felt.