H. pylori infection
H. pylori infection
H. pylori infection occurs when a type of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infects your stomach, usually during childhood. A common cause of peptic ulcers, H. pylori infection is present in about half the people in the world.
Most people don't realize they have H. pylori infection, because they never get sick from it. If you develop signs and symptoms of a peptic ulcer, your doctor will probably test you for H. pylori infection, because it can be treated with antibiotics.
Most people with H. pylori infection will never have any signs or symptoms. It's not clear why this is, but scientists believe some people may be born with more resistance to the harmful effects of H. pylori.
When signs or symptoms do occur with H. pylori infection, they may include:
When to see a doctor
H. pylori bacteria can be passed from person to person through direct contact with saliva, vomit or fecal matter. H. pylori can also be spread through contaminated food or water. The infection is usually acquired during childhood.
Many people contract H. pylori as children. Contracting H. pylori in adulthood is much less common. Risk factors for H. pylori infection are related to living conditions in your childhood, such as:
Complications associated with H. pylori infection include:
A peptic ulcer is a sore on the lining of your stomach, small intestine or esophagus. A peptic ulcer in the stomach is called a gastric ulcer. A duodenal ulcer is a peptic ulcer that develops in the ...
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to first see your family doctor or a general practitioner if you have signs or symptoms that indicate a complication of H. pylori infection. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist who treats diseases of the digestive system (gastroenterologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time together. For H. pylori infection, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Tests and procedures used to determine whether you have an H. pylori infection include:
Treatments and drugs
H. pylori infections are usually treated with two varieties of antibiotics at once, to help prevent the bacteria from developing a resistance to one particular antibiotic. Your doctor also will prescribe an acid suppression drug, to help your stomach lining heal.
Your doctor may recommend that you undergo testing for H. pylori several weeks after your treatment. If the tests show the treatment was unsuccessful, you may undergo another round of treatment with a different combination of antibiotic medications.
In areas of the world where H. pylori infection and its complications are common, doctors sometimes test healthy people for H. pylori. Whether there is a benefit to treating H. pylori when you have no signs or symptoms of infection is controversial among doctors. If you're concerned about H. pylori infection or think you may have a high risk of stomach cancer, talk to your doctor. Together you can decide whether you may benefit from H. pylori screening.
Last Updated: 2011-05-24
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