Preparing for your appointment

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Make an appointment with your family doctor or a general practitioner if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you. If you're thought to have a peptic ulcer, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in the digestive system (gastroenterologist).

It's a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready, and what you can expect from your doctor.

What you can do

  • Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet. Certain medications can affect peptic ulcer tests, so your doctor may want you to stop taking them. He or she may be able to suggest alternatives to these drugs.
  • Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment. It's also a good idea to keep written track of your symptoms as well as the food you're eating. People with peptic ulcers often experience more symptoms when their stomachs are empty.
  • Write down key personal information, including any other medical problems, past surgeries, major stresses or recent life changes.
  • Make a list of all medications, including over-the-counter medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking. It's especially important to note any pain reliever use and the usual dose that you take.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor.

Preparing a list of questions ahead of time can help you make the most of your limited time with your doctor. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For peptic ulcers, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
  • Are there other possible causes for my symptoms?
  • What kinds of tests do I need, and how do I need to prepare for them?
  • Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
  • What treatment do you recommend? How quickly will I start to feel better?
  • What if my symptoms don't improve?
  • What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
  • Are there any dietary restrictions that I need to follow?
  • Is there a generic or over-the-counter alternative to the medicine you're prescribing me?
  • I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
  • Are there brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
  • What caused me to develop this ulcer?

In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions at any time that you don't understand something.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over points you want to cover. Your doctor may ask:

  • When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Have your symptoms been continuous or intermittent?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • Are your symptoms worse when you're hungry?
  • Does anything seem to improve your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
  • Do you take pain relievers or aspirin? If yes, how often?
  • Do you feel nauseated or have you been vomiting?
  • Have you ever vomited blood or black material?
  • Have you noticed blood in your stool or black stools?
  • What, if anything, have you been taking to relieve your symptoms?

What you can do in the meantime

While you're waiting to see your doctor, avoiding smoking, alcohol, spicy foods and stress may help lessen your discomfort.

Jul. 26, 2013