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What Is the Treatment for a Curling's Ulcer?

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  • Written By: Glyn Sinclair
  • Edited By: Rachel Catherine Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 24 November 2016
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Curling’s ulcer is an ulcer that is caused by the stresses on the body after experiencing severe burns. They usually form in the stomach and duodenum, which is the first section of the small intestine. Ulcers typically take the shape of open sores that can be found externally or internally and tend not heal on their own. Treatment and prevention of Curling’s ulcer can involve infusions of strong antacids and proton pump inhibitors, drugs that work to reduce stomach acids. Endoscopic treatments are sometimes used as well.

First named by an English physician, Thomas Curling, Curling’s ulcers are also known as stress ulcers, but are not related to mental worry or stress. Rather, they occur due to extreme physical trauma and tend to be a little more prevalent in children that have been badly burned. The ulcers can lead to hemorrhaging and even death. Preventative treatment for Curling’s ulcer can include monitoring the body’s acid-base balance, respiratory system, and treating any other illnesses that may be apparent in the patient. These measures serve to ward off the conditions that may cause stress ulcers to occur.

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Trauma, such as severe burns and surgery can create the conditions that cause the stomach acids to make a hole in the lining of the duodenum. Patients will very often display symptoms such as appetite loss and bleeding. The condition can also be extremely painful. The first line of treatment typically involves suppressing or neutralizing the stomach acids as much as possible. Sufferers of Curling’s ulcers are sometimes given blood transfusion, depending on the severity of bleeding.

Although these ulcers are most apparent after extensive burns, they also can occur during critical illnesses and surgery. They are believed to form when blood flow is restricted to the stomach. This can lead to ischemia, which translates to an inadequate supply of blood to the organs or other areas of the body. Certain patients with Curling’s ulcer are candidates for endoscopic therapy. This involves the use of a thin tube with a camera and light attached to obtain a visual picture of the stomach and intestine, and take tissue samples as well as perform surgery.

Patients with stress ulcers such as Curling’s ulcer tend to remain in the hospital longer than those with other types of ulcerations. They are also more at risk for other conditions such as hypotension, or low blood pressure, as well as blood poisoning and even respiratory failure. Sulfracate is another drug that is sometimes used to treat the condition, and is said to work by fastening to the area of the ulcer and coating it. Prostaglandin analogues are also employed to treat stress ulcers, although there are a number of side-effects that can occur with these medications, such as diarrhea and negative interactions with other medications. These are chemical compounds that are derived from prostaglandins, which are naturally occurring in the body.

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