This infection happens when a type of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori infects your stomach. Usually, this happens during childhood. H. pylori infection, a common cause of peptic ulcers, is probably present in more than half of world population.
A lot of people don’t know they have H. pylori infection, because they never get sick from it. However, in case you get symptoms of a peptic ulcer, your doctor will probably test you, since it can be treated with antibiotics.
It is still unknown how H.pylori infects someone. This bacteria may be passed through direct contact with saliva from person to person, facel matter or vomit. In addition, H. pylori may be spread through contaminated water or food.
Typical symptoms may include abdominal pain, which occurs a few hours after meals, or when your stomach is empty, at night. This pain is described as a gnawing pain, which can come and go. Taking or eating antacid drugs can relieve the pain. You should visit your doctor if you have this kind of pain. Also, you should contact your doctor if you have a strong pain which doesn’t go away. In addition, many other symptoms can be associated with H. pylori infection. But, keep in mind that these
symptoms are common and can be associated to other conditions, and some symptoms are sometimes even experienced by healthy people. Such symptoms are:
– losing weight
– losing your appetite
– feeling sick or vomiting
– feeling bloated
– excessive burping
Even though these symptoms are common, if any of them persist, or if they are causing serious concern, it is always a great idea to see your doctor. If you notice a black color in your vomit or feces or notice blood, that you should consult your doctor.
Blood sample may be used in order to look for antibodies against H. pylori.
You will have to swallow a preparation which contains radioactive carbon, if you have a breath test. The H. pylori bacteria release an enzyme which destroys this combination, releasing the carbon, which is detected by a special device.
In order to check for signs of Helicobacter pylori in your feces, a stool sample may be needed.
Endoscope, a long, thin instrument, is inserted into your mouth and fed down into your duodenum and stomach. Images are sent back by the camera which is attached on the top of the instrument, that are viewed on a monitor. Using this instrument any area in the abdomen can be inspected, and special tools which are used along with the endoscope can take a sample of these areas, if this is required.
Treatments and Drugs
Usually, H. pylori infections are treated with two varieties of antibiotics at the same time. This helps prevent development of bacteria resistance to one particular antibiotic. Also, your doctor will prescribe an acid-suppressing drug, in order to help your stomach lining heal.
Drugs which can suppress acid are:
Proton pump inhibitors – This drug stops the production of acid in the stomach. Other examples of proton pump inhibitors (or PPIs) are esomeprazole (Nexium, others), pantoprazole (Protonix, others), omeprazole (Prilosec, others), and lansoprazole (Prevacid, others).
Histamine (H-2) blockers – These medications can block histamine, a substance which triggers acid production. Examples include ranitidine (Zantac), cimetidine (Tagamet).
Bismuth subsalicylate – This drug is better known as Pepto-Bismol, and it works by coating the ulcer and protecting from stomach acid.
Sometimes doctors test healthy people for H. pylori in areas of the world where this bacteria infection and all its complications are common. It is controversial among doctor whether there is a benefit to treating this bacteria infection when you have no symptoms. Talk to your doctor if you think you may have a high risk of stomach cancer or if you’re concerned about H. pylori.