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An ulcer is a lesion (sore) of the lining of the digestive tract. These can be caused by infections, inflammation, medications, or an imbalance between stomach acid production and the defense mechanism of the digestive tract against this acid.

In general, acid-related ulcers (peptic ulcers) are uncommon in children. They can be found in the stomach (gastric ulcers), in the esophagus (esophageal ulcers), or the upper part of the small intestine (duodenal ulcer).

Ulcers in children can lead to:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Heartburn
  • Bloating
  • Nausea or Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blood loss
  • Narrowing of the GI tract

Helicobacter pylori bacteria (H. pylori)

While frequent use of over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen can lead to an ulcer, the most common cause for an ulcer in children is a bacterial infection called Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori.

H. pylori is a widespread type of bacteria found in many people’s digestive tracts. It can spread from one person to another through saliva or contaminated foods. Most of the time, it’s harmless. It can, however, lead to the formation of ulcers in the stomach or small intestine, among other problems, such as:

  • Blood loss (Anemia)
  • Excessive burping
  • Blood in the stool
  • Swallowing difficulty due to narrowing in the esophagus

Pediatric Gastroenterologists at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital can diagnose ulcers in the digestive tract using a special test (endoscopy), which enable them to see directly inside your child digestive tract. Lab tests also will be ordered to check for the presence of bacteria such as H.pylori.

Treatment of Ulcers

Treatment will depend upon what caused the ulcer. Most ulcers will require medication aim at decreasing the production of stomach acid. For ulcers caused by H. pylori bacteria, antibiotics will also be prescribed. Other ulcers different types of medication, including anti-inflammatory agents.

After treating H.Pylori, a stool or breath test is needed to ensure the therapy eradicated the infection.

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