What is H. Pylori?
H. Pylori is a bacteria that infects the stomach and is one of the most common infections worldwide.
The stomach is naturally a very acidic environment so as to best break down food. In order to protect itself from the very acid it creates, the body produces a mucous layer around the stomach. Once a person is initially infected, most likely through swallowing food, fluid, or utensils contaminated with the bacteria, H. Pylori bacteria live in this mucosal region of the stomach.
What are the Symptoms of H. Pylori Infection?
Many people with H. Pylori infection will never experience any symptoms. For those that do, common symptoms include:
- Burning pain in the upper abdomen (epigastric pain)
What Are Some Potential Complications of H. Pylori Infection?
- Gastritis: inflammation of the stomach
- Ulcers (gastric and duodenal)
- Stomach cancer
How is H. Pylori Infection Diagnosed?
There are multiple ways to test for H. Pylori infection. The most sensitive and specific test (with the least number of false positives and false negatives) is biopsy; however, this is also the most invasive. Biopsy for H. Pylori is painless and is performed during all endoscopies. Additionally, H. Pylori can be tested for by stool test, blood test, and breath test. Blood tests are the least accurate of all of the methods of testing. Breath tests are now most often offered in-office and results are available immediately after the test. This test measures the amount of carbon dioxide you breathe into a machine before and after you swallow a solution containing a small amount of urea, which H. Pylori bacteria break down into carbon dioxide if they are present.
How is H. Pylori Infection Treated?
H. Pylori infection is treated with different combinations of medications, including antibiotics. Several antibiotic drugs are always used together to prevent the bacteria from developing resistance to any one of them. Once treated, eradication of the bacteria is confirmed with a repeat test.