An ulcer is a painful sore that is slow to heal and sometimes recurs. Ulcers aren’t uncommon. Why they appear and their corresponding symptoms typically depend on their underlying causes.
Ulcers can appear anywhere in or on your body, from the lining in your stomach to the outer layer of your skin.
Sometimes ulcers disappear on their own. Other times they require medical treatment to prevent serious complications.
There are a few types of ulcers, including:
- arterial ulcers
- venous ulcers
- mouth ulcers
- genital ulcers
Arterial (ischemic) ulcers are open sores that primarily develop on the smaller side of arterioles and capillaries, most often around the outer side of your ankle, feet, toes, and heels.
Arterial ulcers develop from damage to the arteries due to a lack of blood flow to the tissue. Arterial ulcers are also sometimes found in the gut in individuals who are ill and have poor blood pressure in general.
These forms of ulcers can take months to heal and require proper treatment to prevent infection and further complications.
Arterial ulcers have a “punched out” appearance accompanied by a number of symptoms, including:
- red, yellow, or black sores
- hairless skin
- leg pain
- no bleeding
- affected area cool to the touch from minimal blood circulation
Treatment for arterial ulcers depends on the underlying cause. Primary treatment includes restoring blood circulation to the affected area.
While antibiotics may help reduce symptoms, your doctor may recommend surgery to increase blood flow to your tissues and organs. In more severe circumstances, your doctor may recommend amputation.
Venous ulcers — the most common type of leg ulcers — are open wounds that often form on your leg, below your knee, and on the inner area of your ankle. They typically develop from damage to your veins caused by insufficient blood flow back to your heart.
In some cases, venous ulcers cause little to no pain unless they’re infected. Other cases of this condition can be very painful.
Other symptoms you may experience include:
- itchy skin
Venous ulcers can take months to fully heal. In rare cases, they may never heal. Treatment focuses on improving flow to the affected area. Antibiotics can help prevent infection and reduce symptoms, but they aren’t enough to heal venous ulcers.
Alongside medication, your doctor may recommend surgery or compression therapy to increase blood flow.
Peptic ulcers are sores or wounds that can develop on:
- the inside lining of your stomach
- the upper portion of your small intestine
- your esophagus
They form when digestive juices damage the walls of your stomach or intestine. These ulcers are quite common.
Peptic ulcers are most often caused by inflammation after contracting Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria or through long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
There are two types of peptic ulcers:
- gastric ulcers, or ulcers that develop in the stomach lining
- duodenal ulcers, or ulcers that develop in the duodenum (small intestine)
The most common symptom of this condition is a burning sensation. Other symptoms may include:
- bloating or the feeling of being full
- unexplained weight loss
- chest pain
Treatment depends on the underlying cause of your ulcer. If you have an H. pylori infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to kill the harmful bacteria.
For the majority of peptic ulcer cases, acid-lowering medication regimens are generally prescribed to help protect the mucosal lining from stomach acid so it has time to heal.
Mouth ulcers are small sores or lesions that develop in your mouth or the base of your gums. They’re commonly known as canker sores.
These ulcers are triggered by a number of
- hormonal changes
- vitamin deficiencies
- bacterial infection
Mouth ulcers are common and often go away within 2 weeks. They can be uncomfortable but shouldn’t cause significant pain. If a mouth ulcer is extremely painful or doesn’t go away within 2 weeks, seek immediate medical attention.
Minor mouth ulcers appear as small, round ulcers that leave no scarring. In more severe cases, they can develop into larger and deeper wounds. Other serious symptoms associated with this type of ulcer may include:
- unusually slow healing (lasting longer than 3 weeks)
- ulcers that extend to your lips
- issues eating or drinking
Mouth ulcers often go away on their own without treatment. If they become painful, your doctor or dentist may prescribe an antimicrobial mouthwash or ointment to reduce your discomfort.
If your condition is the result of a more serious infection, seek medical attention to receive the best treatment.
Genital ulcers are sores that develop on genital areas, including the penis, vagina, anus, or surrounding areas. They are usually caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but genital ulcers can also be triggered by trauma, inflammatory diseases, or even,
In addition to sores, symptoms that may accompany genital ulcers include:
- rash or bumps in the affected area
- pain or itching
- swollen glands in the groin area
Similar to other types of ulcers, treatment depends on the underlying cause of your condition. In some cases, these sores will go away on their own. If diagnosed with an STI, your doctor may prescribe antiviral or antibiotic medication or ointment. If you feel you’ve been exposed to an STI, seek immediate medical attention.
The most common symptom of a peptic ulcer is stomach pain. Often, the pain starts in the center of your stomach and can travel up to your throat or seemingly down your back. This pain can last for a few minutes to a few hours and is usually only temporarily eased by antacids.
You may also feel ill if you have a stomach ulcer and may lose weight.
Serious complications of peptic ulcers include:
- vomiting blood
- passing dark, tarry stools
- a sudden, sharp pain in your stomach that only gets worse, not better
There is no difference between stomach ulcer symptoms in men versus stomach ulcer symptoms in women; however, men are typically more predisposed to developing these types of ulcers, according to the National Health Service (NHS).
Most ulcers, no matter where they are on the body, are caused by underlying issues. Therefore, the answer to “do ulcers go away?” is directly related to how effective the treatment is for the underlying health issue.
Some ulcers, like peptic and genital ulcers, will go away but then reappear, even with treatment. If you find yourself dealing with chronic ulcers and haven’t yet pinned down a cause, it’s important to talk with your doctor immediately.
The length of time it takes for your ulcer to heal depends on the type, as well as the severity of the ulcer itself.
For many peptic ulcers, the healing time is around a month or so with treatment.
Arterial ulcers can take several months to heal, or may not even heal at all.
With compression therapy, venous ulcers can be healed in a few months, although some may not heal at all.
Mouth ulcers, or canker sores, can take anywhere from
The amount of time it takes to heal genital ulcers really depends on what is causing them. For example, individuals living with genital herpes, which is a sexually transmitted disease, can treat their ulcers but cannot cure them, so they may periodically reappear.
Most ulcers will go away faster with the proper treatment.
Ulcers are sores that are slow to heal and sometimes reoccur. They can appear in many different parts of the body, from the stomach lining to the genital area.
While peptic ulcers are the most common kinds of ulcers, there is a variety of ulcer types, and many are caused by underlying conditions. Treatment of ulcers depends on what causes them.
Ulcers are common, and there are over-the-counter methods that can ease the discomfort they may cause. The quicker you talk with your doctor about your symptoms, the quicker you may be able to find relief.