An open sore occurring on the skin or on a mucous membrane that results from the destruction of surface tissues. Ulcers can be deep, or shallow and crater shaped, and they are usually painful and inflamed. An indolent ulcer is one that heals gradually and is not painful.
Skin ulcers most frequently arise on the leg, often as the result of inadequate blood supply to, or drainage from the limb. In certain cases skin cancers, especially basal cell carcinomas or squamous cell carcinomas, can be ulcerated. Hardly ever, a cancer may develop in the skin at the edge of a longstanding ulcer.
Digestive tract ulcers
Ulcers of the mucous membranes most frequently develop within the digestive tract. The ulcers include peptic ulcers (affecting the duodenum or stomach), mouth ulcers, and ulcers that arise on the ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory disorder of the rectum or colon.
Ulcers can also affect the skin or mucous membranes of the genetalia. Most genital ulcers are caused by sexually transmitted infections. Examples of this type of ulcer are hard chancres, which develop during the initial stage of syphilis and soft chancres.
Ulcers can also develop on the cornea, the transparent covering at the front of the eyeball.
Solitary rectal ulcer
A break in the lining of the lower part of the large intestine that fails to heal. Symptoms can include bleeding or a mucous discharge from the anus, tenesmus (a feeling that the rectum has not been fully emptied), and pain. There can also be constipation or diarrhoea; and rectal prolapse (in which part of the rectum protrudes outside the anus) is often present.
Diagnosis can be made by sigmoidoscopy (endoscopic examination of the rectum) and biopsy (taking a tissue sample). Treatment can include laxative and a high fibre diet. Surgery can be recommended to excise the ulcer.