Patient's Complete Guide to Helicobacter Pylori Infection

Overview of Helicobacter Pylori Infection

H. pylori, is a type of bacteria that can enter your body and resides in the stomach where it can cause infection. It can cause peptic ulcers and gastritis cancer.

Signs and Symptoms of Helicobacter Pylori Infection

Helicobacter pylori, commonly known as H. pylori, is a type of bacteria (germ) that can enter your body and reside in the stomach where it can cause infection.
pylori can survive in an acidic environment of the stomach by reducing the acidity of the stomach. It secretes an enzyme urease that neutralizes the stomach natural acid and weakens the stomach’s internal lining.
Due to its spiral shape, it can easily penetrate the stomach walls where it interferes with the body’s immune cells and starts damaging the stomach tissues. This can cause inflammation (swelling) in your digestive tract, leading towards a ‘peptic ulcer’ (painful sores in the stomach). H. pylori can also cause your stomach to produce more acid than normal. Increased acid production leads to sores in the stomach that are hurtful.
pylori are common in people of all ages but not all show the symptoms or get an ulcer. However, it is the leading cause of stomach ulcers and gastritis (stomach lining inflammation).

Occurrence

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), H. pylori colonizes almost two-thirds of the world’s population. The prevalence is higher in developing countries i.e. in Pakistan, H. pylori affect 60-90% of the population annually. It is more common in females (75%) than males (73%).

Types of Helicobacter Pylori Infection

The signs and symptoms of H. pylori infection do not appear in most people. However, the symptoms that appear include;

  • Nausea
  • Pain in abdomen
  • Burning feeling in the chest or abdomen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bloating
  • Burping
  • Rapid or unintentional weight loss
  • Fever
  • Feeling of fullness even after taking a small meal

Risk Factors of Helicobacter Pylori Infection

The exact cause of H. pylori infection is not known yet. The infection spreads through direct contact i.e. person to person interaction by saliva, fecal matter, or vomiting. The bacteria get entry into your digestive tract by;

  • Eating unhygienic food
  • Drinking contaminated water
  • Unsanitized conditions i.e. not washing hands after use of toilet

Prevention

Some of the risk factors of getting H. pylori infection include;

  • Children are more likely to have H. pylori infection than adults
  • People of developing countries are at more risk
  • Living in crowded places
  • Interaction with an H. pylori-infected person
  • Unhygienic conditions
  • Unclean water consumption

Complications

Some complications are associated with Helicobacter pylori infection. These include;

  • Gastritis: H. pylori cause stomach inflammation (swelling of the stomach lining)
  • Stomach cancer: H. pylori can lead to stomach-related cancer.

Gastritis cancer, the second most cause of cancer death, is majorly associated with H. pylori infection.
According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, H. pylori is considered as a ‘carcinogen’ (cancer causing agent). Therefore, colonization of H. pylori in the stomach is the leading cause of ‘gastric cancer’ and sometimes ‘gastric mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue lymphoma (MALT)’.

  • Ulcers: Almost 10% of people infected with H. pylori develop peptic ulcers. Painful sores form inside the lining of the upper digestive tract.

Complications associated with peptic ulcers:

If a stomach ulcer due to H. pylori is left untreated, it can produce certain complications:

  • Stomach hole that causes infection
  • Bleeding inside your stomach
  • Stomach pain
  • Black colored stool
  • Blood vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • High fever

Stomach ulcers are not always caused by H. pylori. Nonetheless, it may also occur by the long-term use of pain relievers e.g. aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Research published by The Lancet confirmed that ‘ulcer rarely happens to those people who do not have H. pylori and history of anti-inflammatory drugs.

How common is H. pylori infection in children?

pylori infections i.e. gastritis and ulcer are very common in children of developing countries. Children with H. pylori often show symptoms; bloody stool, blood in vomit that seems like coffee grounds, and sudden abdominal pain.
Immediately consult a Pediatrician, if your child shows any of these symptoms.

Diagnosis

Some common practices will help you in developing good health habits that will prevent you from getting bacterial infection;

  • Develop good health hygiene conditions

  • Wash your hands after using the toilet and before eating

  • Food cooked under good hygienic conditions

  • Use clean water for drinking purposes

  • Avoid alcohol

  • Avoid the excessive use of anti-inflammatory drugs

Treatment of Helicobacter Pylori Infection | When to Consult a Doctor

  • Medical and travel history

 A doctor will ask you about your medical history, travel history and suspect your symptoms.

  • H. pylori testing

After physical examination and investigating medical history, a doctor will further suggest you some tests.

  • H. pylori Antibody test: It looks for the presence of antibodies produced against H. pylori in your blood.

It will help your doctor to trace the reason for peptic ulcer, either it is caused by H. pylori bacteria or by use of anti-inflammatory drugs. The presence of antibodies indicates that your body has produced the antidotes against the H. pylori that entered into your stomach.

What does H. pylori positive and H. pylori negative mean?

You should know this concept to understand your blood test report.

  • H. pylori positive means that your blood contains H. pylori antibodies. But it does not mean that H. pylori infection is active in your stomach because antibodies remain in your body even after the bacteria have been removed.
  • H. pylori negative means normal blood test report. You do not have an H. pylori infection.
  • Stool culture: A small sample of stool is taken to check the presence of H. pylori bacteria in your digestive tract.
  • Breath test: A urea pill is given to check the presence of carbon molecules in your breath. As H. pylori produces urease enzyme, when a urea pill is taken the urease enzyme will convert it into carbon dioxide gas.
  • Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD): The endoscopy procedure is performed with the help of a thin, lighted tube that has a camera at one end. It enters through the mouth then goes down into the food pipe and takes images of the internal organs i.e. food pipe, stomach and duodenum. If required, a small tissue sample can also be taken.

Healthcare Providers

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Speciality for Helicobacter Pylori Infection

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