What is the Helicobacter pylori Infection?
Helicobacter pylori, also known as H. pylori, is a type of bacteria that infects the stomach. Infection with H. pylori is very common, and about two-thirds of the world’s population has it in their bodies. When this bacterium enters the body, it attacks the stomach lining. This can cause stomach acid to break through the lining, which can result in ulcers. Stomach ulcers can cause bleeding, infections or stop food from moving easily through the digestive tract.
For many people, H. pylori causes no symptoms. However, for those who do experience symptoms, they may include:
- An aching or burning feeling in the abdomen.
- Abdominal pain.
- Abdominal bloating.
- Loss of appetite.
- Weight loss.
While the specific way H. pylori infect a person is still not known, it may be passed through direct contact with saliva, fecal matter, vomit or contaminated food or water.
How is Helicobacter pylori Diagnosed?
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms or have a history of stomach ulcers, your doctor can test you for H. pylori. Your provider will start by asking you questions about your symptoms, medical history and any medications you take. Because certain medications like NSAIDs can damage your stomach lining, it is important to tell your doctor how often you take Motrin, Advil or Aleve. A physical exam will be done to check for abdominal swelling or pain, along with other tests like blood or stool tests or a urea breath test. To look more closely at stomach ulcers, an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, upper GI tests or CT scan may also be needed for diagnosis.
Treatment Options for Helicobacter pylori
If you have stomach ulcers due to H. pylori, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria in the body. Doctors usually prescribe at least two different antibiotics at once to help prevent the bacteria from developing a resistance to one specific antibiotic. An acid-suppressing drug (proton pump inhibitor) may also be prescribed to block acid production in the stomach. Treatment usually takes about 1-2 weeks, after which your doctor may test your stool or breath again to ensure that the infection is gone.
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Tips for Preventing Helicobacter pylori Infection
There are some steps that you can take to protect yourself from becoming infected with this bacterium. These include:
- Wash your hands regularly, especially before you prepare food and after you use the bathroom.
- Avoid ingesting food or water that is not clean.
- Avoid eating food served by individuals who have not cleaned their hands.
- Do not eat food that is not cooked all the way through.
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At South Denver GI, our team of physicians and advanced practice providers have the expertise to provide you with outstanding care. If you would like to learn more about Helicobacter pylori or need to schedule an appointment at our office, contact us today!
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