Helicobacter Pylori

iStock_000018265442_Double.jpgHelicobacter pylori, also known as H. pylori, is a type of bacteria that enters your body and lives in your digestive tract. After many years, they can cause ulcers in the lining of your stomach or the upper part of your small intestines. While stomach ulcers are not necessarily uncommon, for some people an H. pylori infection can lead to stomach cancer.

H. pylori is a very common bacteria, and is present in about two-thirds of the world’s population. For most people, H. pylori causes no problems (no ulcers or any other symptoms). If ulcers or other symptoms become present, there are treatments available that can kill the bacteria and help heal the sores.

Today, H. pylori is primarily more common in countries and communities that lack clean water or good sewage systems. However, you can contract the bacteria through food or contact with saliva and body fluids of an infected person. Because so few people ever present any illness associated with the bacteria, transmission is common. Many people get the bacteria when they are children, but adults get it too. And they live with the germs for years before symptoms begin; however, many people still remain unaffected.

Symptoms of Illness from H. Pylori

Ulcers are the most common problem associated with an H. pylori infection. An ulcer can feel like a slow dull pain in your abdomen that may come and go. You may feel better after you eat, drink milk or take an antacid, but these only mask the problem, and the symptoms will soon persist. Other common symptoms of an ulcer include:

  • Bloating
  • Burping
  • Lack of Appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sudden, Unexplained Weight Loss

Additionally, ulcers can bleed into your stomach or intestines, which can be dangerous to your health. You should see a doctor right away if you notice ANY of the following symptoms:

  • Stool that appears bloody, dark red or black
  • Trouble breathing
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Feeling very tired for no reason
  • Pale skin
  • Vomiting that has blood or looks like coffee grounds
  • Severe, sharp stomach pain

While its not common, H. pylori infection can cause stomach cancer. This is why it is important that you seek medical help sooner rather than later for any possible symptoms that you may be experiencing

Treatment and Diagnosis

To start, your doctor will ask about your medical history, your symptoms and any medicines you take. Then, he or she may give you a physical examination. Afterward, you may be referred to a gastroenterologist, who can assist with other tests, including a breath test, blood test and stool sample. To get a better look at your ulcers, you may need the following test, some of which can be performed at Quadrangle Endoscopy Center:

  • Upper Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
  • Upper GI X-Rays
  • CT Scans

Treatment of the infection usually takes one to two weeks, and may require a combination of the following medicines

  • Antibiotics
  • Drugs that reduce the amount of acid in your stomach (prevacid or prilosec are common)
  • Bismuth subsalicylate with work in tandem with antibiotics
  • Medicines that prevent your stomach from creating more acid

The combination of medicines may seem significant, but they are essential to removing the bacteria and the risk of any future problems as a result of the infection. About a month after your finish treatment, your doctor may want to perform a couple simple exams again to ensure the bacteria has been removed.