How Much Do You Know About Stomach Ulcers?

Until recent decades, doctors had almost no idea what caused these often painful breaks in the stomach lining, and they were just as puzzled about treatments. (A medical text from 1957 recommends hourly feedings of milk and cream!) Ulcers are no longer such a mystery to doctors, but many myths and misunderstandings remain. Test your knowledge of stomach ulcers with this quiz. And, by the way, skip the cream.

1. What's the most common cause of stomach ulcers?

a. Alcohol abuse

b. Spicy foods

c. Stress

d. A bacterial infection

2. Which of these pain relievers can cause ulcers?

a. Aspirin

b. Ibuprofen

c. Naproxen sodium

d. All of the above

3. Popping an antacid tablet is a good way to ease ulcer pain. True or false?

True

False

4. Smoking will increase your risk of ulcers. True or false?

True

False

5. Ulcers are always painful. True or false?

True

False

6. Most ulcers will heal on their own if the cause of the problem is removed. True or false?

True

False

7. Having an ulcer means you should be especially careful about how much alcohol you drink. True or false?

True

False

Your Results

1. What's the most common cause of stomach ulcers?

The correct answer is: d. A bacterial infection

More than 80 percent of all stomach ulcers are caused by a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori. The germ is extremely common, and, fortunately, it's easily treated with antibiotics. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol, spicy foods, and emotional stress rarely, if ever, cause ulcers.

2. Which of these pain relievers can cause ulcers?

The correct answer is: d. All of the above

All of these pain relievers are NSAIDS (which stands for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), a class of drugs that is a major source of ulcers. Patients who take several pills a day are at the greatest risk, but ulcers can form after just a few pills. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration warns that NSAIDS are associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. That risk can occur as early as the first weeks of using an NSAID and appears to be greater at high doses. Make sure to carefully read the label on dosage and consult with your doctor before taking them if you are already at risk for a stroke or heart attack.

3. Popping an antacid tablet is a good way to ease ulcer pain. True or false?

The correct answer is: True

Anything that lowers the acid level in your stomach will ease the pain of your ulcer. Antacid tablets such as Tums work well, as do over-the-counter drugs such as Zantac and Tagamet that actually prevent the release of acid. If you take tablets for two weeks or more and still have pain, see your doctor.

4. Smoking will increase your risk of ulcers. True or false?

The correct answer is: True

Smoking doesn't cause ulcers, but it does make a person much more vulnerable to the disease. Smoking also makes ulcers slower to heal. If you needed another reason to give up smoking, here it is.

5. Ulcers are always painful. True or false?

The correct answer is: False

Almost half of all people with ulcers never notice any symptoms. This isn't always a blessing, because even painless ulcers can cause internal bleeding and other complications. You should see your doctor if you have black stools or if you feel fatigued, dizzy, and short of breath. Even though your stomach feels fine, you may have a bleeding ulcer that requires quick attention.

6. Most ulcers will heal on their own if the cause of the problem is removed. True or false?

The correct answer is: True

The stomach has an amazing ability to heal itself. Most ulcers will go away quickly if you remove the root cause. For most people, that means taking antibiotics to rid themselves of H. pylori. If NSAIDS are causing your ulcers, switching to another type of pain reliever should solve the problem for good.

7. Having an ulcer means you should be especially careful about how much alcohol you drink. True or false?

The correct answer is: True

Alcohol doesn't cause ulcers on its own, but it does irritate the stomach lining and make it harder for ulcers to heal.

References

FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA strengthens warning that non-aspirin nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause heart attacks or strokes, January 16, 2016, https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm451800.htm

Evaluation and Management of Dyspepsia. American Academy of Family Physicians/American Family Physician.

H. pylori and the Peptic Ulcer. NIDDK, National Institutes of Health.

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