Are Ulcers Caused by Stress? Here’s What You Need to Know

Ulcers are sores that occur on the skin or mucous membrane. They can be caused by various sources and conditions, and yes, stress might be one of the reasons.

1. Introduction

Ulcers can appear on the skin, or the mucous membranes lining different bodily regions, such as the mouth and digestive tract. They can vary in size and depth and can be pretty painful.

2. What are Ulcers

Ulcers are open sores that develop on the skin, mucous membranes, or internal organs. It is generated through various sources like physical, chemical, or biological agents. And among these sources, one is stress. There is a scientific correlation between ulcers and stress, which will be discussed further.

3. Types of Ulcers

There are several types of ulcers, including:

3.1. Peptic Ulcer

Peptic ulcers are lesions that develop on the oesophagal, small intestine, or stomach walls. The most prevalent causes of peptic ulcers are long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or Helicobacter pylori infection or stress. Bloating, nausea, and scorching stomach discomfort are possible symptoms.

peptic ulcer
Julien Tromeur/Pixabay

3.2. Venous Ulcer

Venous ulcers are usually found in the legs and are linked to poor circulation, which is frequently brought on by persistent venous insufficiency. They are caused by blood clotting in the veins, which damages tissue and causes ulcers.

3.3. Mouth Ulcer

Canker sores are tiny, painful sores that can appear on the tongue, inside the cheeks, lips, or gums. They might be brought on by little wounds like biting the inside of the mouth or due to the gastrointestinal tract problem or they can be linked to underlying medical issues.

canker sores

3.4. Pressure Ulcer

Bedsores or decubitus ulcers, another name for pressure ulcers, are caused by continuous pressure on the skin, frequently due to immobility or bed rest. The locations above bony prominences, such as elbows, sacrum, or heels, are where they are most frequent. This generally develops in patients who are paralyzed or people who cannot move, and have to stay in bed permanently.

3.5. Arterial Ulcer

Arterial ulcers are brought on by insufficient blood flow to a specific region, which is frequently brought on by atherosclerosis or arterial disease. They can be uncomfortable and often develop on the lower legs and feet.

3.6. Corneal Ulcer

Sores on the cornea, the clear front surface of the eye, are called corneal ulcers. They may result in eye discomfort, redness, and vision issues and can be brought on by infections, trauma, or underlying eye disorders.

corneal ulcer
Rudy and Peter Skitterians/Pixabay

3.7. Genital Ulcer

Sexually transmitted illnesses (STIs), including herpes, syphilis, or chancroid, have been linked to genital ulcers, which can develop in the genital and anal areas.

From the above-given types, many ulcers are directly or indirectly caused by stress. So, “Are ulcers caused by stress?” the answer is yes!

4. Sources of Ulcer

There are various sources of ulcers, like-

4.1. Physical Sources of Ulcer

The Ulcer that develops due to physical agents

4.1.1. Pressure

Pressure ulcers, sometimes called bedsores, are caused by prolonged pressure or friction on the skin and underlying tissues. These ulcers frequently form when blood flow is decreased in regions constantly under pressure, including over-bony prominences.

4.1.2. Radiation & Energy

High doses of ionizing radiation, which is frequently used to treat cancer, can harm cells and cause radiation ulcers in the vicinity of the exposure.

Catalania Catalino/Pixabay


As an afflicted region becomes an open sore, physical trauma such as burns, abrasions, cuts, or other tissue damage can cause ulcers to develop.

4.2. Chemical Sources of Ulcer

The Ulcer that develops due to harmful chemicals-

4.2.1. Acid and alkali ingestion

Swallowing strong acids or alkalis, such as those found in home cleaning solutions, can burn the esophagus and stomach chemically, leading to ulcers. It can be an accidental phenomenon.

4.2.2. Medicines

Peptic ulcers may result from some medicines irritating the lining of the stomach and small intestine, especially nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and certain painkillers. These medications may cause the digestive tract’s shielding mucus layer to break down, leaving it more vulnerable to stomach acid injury.

Arek Socha/Pixabay

4.2.3. Corrosive chemicals

Skin or mucous membrane ulcers can result from unintentional exposure to corrosive substances in domestic or industrial environments. Contact with powerful acids, bases, or poisonous materials may result in this.

4.3. Biological Sources of Ulcer

The Ulcers that develop due to improper functioning of the body due to different biological sources-

4.3.1. Poor Circulation

Venous or arterial ulcers may arise from blood flow-impairing conditions such as diabetes, peripheral arterial disease, or chronic venous insufficiency. When tissues do not receive enough blood flow, ulcers like this develop.

4.3.2. Infections

Various microorganisms, including bacteria and viruses, can be a source of ulcers. Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is the most common source of peptic ulcers.

Certain viral infections, such as herpes simplex virus, can lead to oral or genital ulcers.

bacteria infection
Arek Socha/Pixabay

4.3.3. Stress

Ulcers like peptic ulcers can be caused by stress due to the release of more hydrochloric acid from gastric parietal cells. Hormonal imbalances can also develop other types of ulcers due to stress.

5. What is Stress?

Tension, either bodily or emotional, is referred to as stress. It might originate from any thinking or experience that causes you to feel anxious, angry, or frustrated. There are various types of stress, like stress arising due to a tense situation and it goes away after a short duration then, it is called acute stress. And if stress is persistent with time, then it is chronic stress.

stressed man

6. Effects of Stress

It affects the body physically as well as emotionally.

Physical effects

Stress causes headaches, muscle tension, sleep deprivation, fatigue, depression and even more serious health problems.

Indirectly, it also causes ulcers, which is being discussed in the article.

Emotional effects

Stress leads to feelings of anxiety, Irritability, sadness, anger, or anxiousness. Chronic stress can cause other mental health problems like depression and anxiety disorders.

 7. Are Ulcers Caused by Stress

Stress can never directly cause ulcers, but indirectly, it causes various types of ulcers like gastrointestinal, stress, and mouth ulcers. Stress may not be the sole cause of stomach ulcers, but it is certainly an accomplice.

8. Scientific Correlation Between Stress & Ulcers

The stomach’s lining protects it from the harsh acids and digestive enzymes found inside the human body. When that lining degrades and internal secretions eat away the stomach wall, ulcers may develop. The relation between ulcers and stress is-

8.1. Peptic Ulcer

Gastrin hormone, produced by the ‘G’ cells in the lining of the stomach and upper small intestine, stimulates the release of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Stress induces this hormone which increases stomach acid, a source of ulcers.

People under stress tend to develop body aches and to overcome it they administer an overdose of NSAIDs which also can be the reason for developing ulcers.

Stress can also prompt the use of alcohol and tobacco among people and it also causes ulcers.

stomach ache
Martin Budenbender/Pixabay

8.2. Mouth Ulcer

During stress, people tend to bite their lips and cheeks which causes an open sore to develop. Another reason is when acid secretion increases in the stomach it also affects the buccal cavity and ulcers may develop.

Due to the release of high doses of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, the whole gastrointestinal area can be affected and duodenal ulcer or esophageal ulcer may also develop.

mouth ulcer
Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

9. How to Overcome Stress-Induced Ulcers

The most important thing that has to be done to overcome the stress-induced ulcers is to overcome or manage the stress. Various strategies can be used to manage stress, like-

9.1. Identify Stressors

Finding the source of the stress is the first step towards treating it. Determine the roots of your stress, whether they have to do with your job, your relationships with others, your money, or other areas of your life.

9.2. Maintain a Healthy Diet

Eating a well-balanced diet can improve energy and happiness. Steer clear of sugary meals, excessive coffee, and alcohol since they can exacerbate stress and anxiety.

Healthy Food
Jerzy Gorecki/Pixabay

9.3. Regular Exercise

Getting active is an excellent way to relieve stress. Natural mood enhancers called endorphins are released during exercise. On most days of the week, try to get in at least 30 minutes of moderate activity.

9.4. Practice Mindfulness & Meditation

One can reduce stress and stay in the present now by practicing gradual muscle relaxation, deep breathing, and mindfulness meditation. These methods can assist in reducing stress and calming the mind.

vined mind/Pixabay

9.5. Get Adequate Amount of Sleep

Stress levels might rise when sleep-deprived. Make sure to get seven to nine hours of good sleep every night. Create a relaxing sleeping environment and establish a nighttime ritual.

9.6. Time Management

Establish attainable objectives and priorities to help you plan your day. Utilise strategies like the Pomodoro Technique and divide work into manageable portions to stay focused and productive.

9.7. Seek Professional Help

After trying all these techniques, if you’re experiencing extreme stress that’s getting in the way of your everyday life, you should think about seeing a mental health expert, such as a therapist or counselor. They can offer direction and assistance.

These are some measures through which we can manage stress in our day-to-day life and managing stress will result in a decreased risk of developing ulcers.

10. Treatments for Ulcers

The treatment of ulcers depends on the type of ulcers and the most common type is peptic ulcer and mouth ulcer (canker sores).

10.1. Peptic Ulcers

It can be treated by administrating-

10.1.1. Antibiotics

To treat H.pylori infection.

10.1.2. Antacids

To overcome hyperacidity of the stomach.

10.1.3. Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)

To inhibit parietal cells producing acids and the ulcer to heal.

10.1.4. Histamine-2 Blocker

To reduce stomach acids by blocking the H2 blocker.


10.2. Canker Sores

Its treatment typically focuses on pain relief-

10.2.1. Topical Analgesics

Cream or gel can be applied directly to the ulcer to reduce the pain.

10.2.2. Avoid Irritants

Steer clear of hot, acidic, and spicy meals and drinks since these might exacerbate the discomfort. Moreover, make an effort to reduce any physical discomfort from dental procedures or braces.

10.2.3. Prescription Medicines

A doctor may occasionally recommend corticosteroids or other drugs to treat pain and inflammation.

ointment tube
May Angelike/Pixabay

11. Conclusion

Stress is not usually the direct cause of ulcers. However, it can make some medical problems worse and create a variety of physical and psychological symptoms. Certain medicines, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), bacterial infections like Helicobacter pylori, and underlying medical problems, including autoimmune illnesses, are among the most specific causes of ulcers.

On the other hand, stress may contribute to developing and treating ulcers. Stress can influence lifestyle choices that may indirectly impact the onset or healing of ulcers. For instance, stress can be a factor in destructive eating patterns, restless nights, and increased alcohol or tobacco use, all of which can harm the digestive tract and weaken the body’s defences against ulcers.

Mental Health

Furthermore, stress may raise the production of stomach acid, which might exacerbate peptic ulcer symptoms in those who have them. In addition to understanding that ulcers usually have more specific underlying reasons and that treating them requires treating those causes and stress management approaches, it’s critical to manage stress for general health and well-being. Since stress negatively influences our general health, it is important to manage stress well as part of a holistic approach to ulcer prevention and repair, even if stress is not the only cause of ulcers.

Last Updated on December 19, 2023 by