Ulcers: Separating Fact from Fiction

Ulcers are a common condition. About 20 million Americans now have, have had, or sometime in their lives will have an occurrence or recurrence of this chronic disease. Because ulcers are common, many people think they know all there is to know about the condition.

Test your knowledge to see how much you really know:

1. Fact or Fiction: Hard-driven, Type “A” personalities are more likely to have ulcers.

Fiction. While we tend to think a person with a demanding, stressful lifestyle is more likely to develop an ulcer, the truth is that all personality types from all different lifestyles are equally likely to suffer from ulcers.

2. Fact or Fiction: Men are affected by ulcers more often than women.

Fact. Men do have ulcers more often than women, although the number of women with ulcers is increasing.

3. Fact or Fiction: Only adults get ulcers.

Fiction. Although peptic ulcers are most common in people between the ages of 25 and 40, all age groups – including infants and children – can get them. In older age groups, ulcers are commonly related to medications such as aspirin and anti-inflammatory drugs taken for arthritis.

4. Fact or Fiction: Ulcers can be a pain, but you can’t actually die from them.

Fiction. With proper care, most people lead long and healthy lives despite having ulcers. However, about 12,000 Americans die each year from complications related to the condition.

5. Fact or Fiction: My father has ulcers, so I’m more likely to have them.

Fact. Close relatives of patients with ulcers are about three times more likely to get them than the general public.

6. Fact or Fiction: I’ve got a sharp pain in my stomach; it probably indicates an ulcer.

Fiction. Pain in the pit of the stomach is the most common symptom of ulcers; however, rather than a sharp pain, it typically is a gnawing or burning sensation.

7. Fact or Fiction: Even though I have ulcers, I can still eat what I like.

Fact. Doctors used to prescribe a bland diet that included lots of milk and crackers. Today, patients are encouraged to eat whatever they like, within reason. Alcohol, cigarettes, caffeinated drinks, aspirin and anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen should be avoided because they often contribute to ulcer development and delay healing.

8. Fact or Fiction: Surgery is the only way to cure ulcers.

Fiction. Ulcers may be cured with medical therapy in many cases. Eradication of H. pylori, bacteria known to cause ulcers in many patients, is often curative. Avoidance of drugs such as aspirin and anti-inflammatory drugs, along with ulcer medication, often heals ulcers. Surgery is usually not required but may be indicated for non-healing of ulcers or complications. There is a 90-95 percent chance that a patient will not have a recurrence of ulcers following surgery if they are careful to avoid drugs associated with ulcer development and lead a healthy lifestyle.

9. Fact or Fiction: Because I have ulcers, I need to limit my physical activity.

Fiction. Exercise relieves tension and can actually be good for you. With proper care, you should be able to maintain an active lifestyle.

If you think you may have ulcers, don’t ignore the problem. Come see us for proper diagnosis and treatment.