Ulcers in children are usually associated with chronic illness or the use of certain medications known to exacerbate ulcers. While many people use “ulcer” generically to refer to peptic ulcers, sores located in the stomach, an ulcer is actually any open injury or sore, including a mouth ulcer or a skin ulcer. Children can develop such wounds anywhere on their bodies and the causes for different types of ulcers in children vary. Treatments are usually available to resolve or manage ulcers and keep a child comfortable.
In the sense of peptic ulcers, most children develop gastric ulcers, which are ulcers located specifically in the stomach. While these are usually linked with Helicobacter pylori infection in adults, in children, gastric ulcers are most commonly caused by use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Children are more sensitive to these medications and so they will often experience more adverse reactions to them. Gastric ulcers are also seen in seriously ill children and children with chronic illnesses, with the ulcers appearing as a complication often related to the treatment being used.
Signs of stomach ulcers in children can include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain, and decreased appetite. Children may also feel generally uncomfortable and unwell. Because many pediatricians do not expect to find ulcers, several avenues of diagnosis and treatment may be pursued before the doctor identifies ulcers as the explanation for the symptoms. Children with chronic conditions linked with ulcers should be regularly evaluated for signs of complications like ulcers.
Oral ulcers, or sores in the mouth, can occur in children because of viral infections, trauma, adverse reactions to medications like chemotherapy, and chronic conditions associated with oral ulcers. Children can also develop ulcers on their skin as a result of trauma or chronic untreated diabetes. Diabetic ulcers in children occur because circulation is impaired and some of the skin dies as a result of poor blood supply.
When ulcers in children are identified, testing may be conducted to learn their cause. Treatments vary. Medications are available to kill organisms associated with ulcers, antacid drugs can be taken for stomach ulcers, and diabetic ulcers can be cleaned and dressed to promote healing. Management of underlying chronic conditions is important to reduce the risk of ulcer recurrence. Since children sometimes have trouble adhering to medication schedules, adjustments to a child's treatment plan may be made to make a chronic condition easier to manage. This can include switching from a medication known to induce ulcers to a different medication.