What is H. Pylori?
H. pylori is a bacteria that can infect the stomach and cause complications like stomach ulcers. Here’s an overview of how doctors identify and treat this infection.
Causes and Risk Factors
H. Pylori is very common- in the United States, around 30-40% of people are estimated to have an infection with the bacteria in their lifetime. Most It may spread through contaminated food and water, and through an infected person’s saliva or other bodily fluids. As such, risk factors include eating food that is not cooked properly or safely and drinking contaminated water. Living in crowded conditions also increases risk, as does living in a developing country where living conditions may be less sanitary and more crowded. Additionally, if you live with someone who has H. pylori, you have an increased risk.
Symptoms and Complications
Most people with H. pylori never have any symptoms. For people who do experience symptoms, they can include a burning or ache in the abdomen, loss of appetite, nausea, boating, weight loss, frequent burping, and nausea. There are some complications that can occur with H. pylori as well. The infection can damage the stomach’s protective lining and allow stomach acid to create an ulcer (an open sore). Additionally, the infection can cause gastritis (inflammation) on the stomach lining. H. pylori infection is also a risk factor for some kinds of stomach cancer.
There are a few ways doctors can diagnose H. pylori. They can perform blood testing to see if you have an active or past infection. They can also perform breath testing; in this case, you swallow a pill containing carbon molecules and then breathe into a bag. Doctors check for carbon in your breath- if it’s present this means the bacteria is present. Another testing option is a stool test, in which doctors analyze a stool sample for abnormal bacteria or proteins that indicate an H. pylori infection. In some cases, your doctor may perform an upper endoscopy to visualize your stomach and take a tissue biopsy.
Treatment and Prevention
Most often, doctors treat H. pylori infection with multiple antibiotics. They may use two simultaneously to hedge against the bacteria becoming resistant to one. Your doctor may recommend other treatments depending on your case. This can include prescribing proton pump inhibitors, which block stomach acid production. They may also prescribe histamine blockers, which block histamine, the substance that triggers acid production. Often times, you may undergo follow-up testing a few weeks after treatment to determine if the bacteria has been eliminated.
You can take some steps to prevent H. pylori infection. Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after using the bathroom and before eating. Only consume food that has been cooked in a clean and safe manner. Avoid unclean drinking water if possible. Doing these things can cut down on risk factors for H. pylori.
Our experienced team at GHP has years of experience diagnosing and treating H. pylori. We can help establish the best plan of care for your situation. Contact any of our office locations to learn about the options we offer and schedule an appointment today.