Ulcers in women are crater like open sores that are generally one-fourth to three-fourths of an inch in diameter, but can sometimes be one or two inches in diameter. Ulcers in women are formed inside the linings of the stomach, the upper part of the small intestine and just below the stomach and on rare occasions in the linings of the esophagus.
Stomach ulcers are called gastric ulcers, intestinal ulcers are called duodenal ulcers and ulcers of the esophagus in women are called esophageal ulcers.
There are digestive juices such as pepsin and hydrochloric acid present in the stomach. The stomach muscles mix crush the food and mix them with the digestive juices. Any damage to the lining of the stomach may result in the pepsin and hydrochloric acid acting on them as well causing ulcers. On the other hand, excessive levels of the digestive juices may also lead to damage of stomach linings as well as that of the duodenum and result in ulcers in women.
Untreated ulcers in women may lead to bleeding ulcers that can cause seepage of blood from the blood vessels into the digestive tract and perforated ulcers that is characterized by a hole in the gastric or duodenal wall and can cause the spilling of food into the hole as well as bacterial infection thereby leading to inflammation. There are also ulcers in women that lead to narrowing of the intestinal opening thereby hampering and obstructing the passage of food from the stomach to the small intestine.
Symptoms of ulcers in women
• The most common symptom of an ulcer in women is burning or gnawing pain. This pain results from the ulcer and can be worsened due to the contact of stomach acid with an area that has ulcers.
• The pain commences in the abdomen but can be found in other parts and can radiate to the breastbone.
• The pain has a tendency to flare up in the night
• The pain tends to aggravate when the stomach is empty
• The pain tends to appear in cycles and may remise for a few days before appearing again to last for another few days or weeks.
• Acid-reduction medications as well as foods that shield stomach acid may result in temporary alleviation of pain
Besides pain, ulcers in women may sometimes show the following signs and symptoms:
• Nausea and/or vomiting
• The presence of blood in stools which gives the feces a dark or tar-like color
• Changes or loss of appetite
• Changes in weight that may lead to inexplicable and unintended weight loss
• One may have blood in the vomit giving it a red or dark color
Causes of ulcers in women
Some of the causes and risk factors of ulcers in women are listed below:
• The lining of the stomach is coated with a mucus covering that protects it from the adverse effects of hydrochloric acid and pepsin. In addition, the stomach produces bicarbonate and circulates blood in the stomach linings. This aids the repair and renewal of cells in the lining. Any impairment of these vital functions may result in damage to the stomach linings leading to the development of ulcers in women
• One of the primary causes of ulcers in women is the Helicobacter pylori or the H. pylori bacteria. The bacterium resides in the inner linings or the mucus coating of the stomach. It is usually not harmful, but sometimes it may multiply and then destroy the mucus coating, thereby causing ulcers in women. The H. pylori bacteria may spread through close or intimate contact such as kissing or through the intake of contaminated and adulterated food and water.
• Pain relief medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, ketoprofen and some other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs may cause inflammation or irritation of the lining of the small intestine and stomach. This can lead to the formation of ulcers in women.
• Prescription medications like bisphosphonates that are used to treat conditions such as osteoporosis may lead to the development of ulcers in women
• Other reasons such as excessive alcohol intake, smoking, caffeine intake and stress due to physical or emotional trauma increases the vulnerability of women to develop ulcers
Treatment of ulcers in women
Ulcers in women can treated in the following ways:
• Medications such as H2-blockers that decreases the quantity of acid in the stomach
• Women who do not respond to the H2-receptor blockers are prescribed proton-pump inhibitors such as omeprazole. These drugs are more potent and powerful in reducing the acid producing capacity of the stomach
• Medications such as sucralfate and misoprostol that help in the protection of the mucus linings in the stomach from acid attack are also used to treat ulcers in women. Antacids that neutralize the acid in the stomach may also be used.
• Ulcers in women caused by H. pylori bacteria are treated with antibiotics.
• If the use of painkillers is causing the ulcers in women then alternative medications are prescribed and NSAIDs are discontinued.
• Surgery, that involves cutting the nerve that transmits messages from the brain to the stomach and/or removal of the lower part of the stomach that is responsible for stimulating the secretion of the stomach’s digestive juices, may also be performed to treat severe cases of ulcers in women.
• A healthy lifestyle that comprises of a balanced diet complete with fresh fruits and vegetables, quitting smoking, less intake of alcohol and regular exercise may help in the prevention of ulcers in women