Helicobacter pylori Infection

November 12, 2012

Helicobacter pylori Infection

Helicobacter pylori are bacteria that cause infection and inflammation of the stomach. The condition is very common in the developing world, especially in the low-income, unhygienic neighborhoods. The complications of the disease include ulcers and stomach cancer.

Causes

H.pylori infection can be transmitted from person to person via direct contact with saliva, vomit, or fecal matter. It is common in children, and is usually acquired upon consuming contaminated food or water. Individuals who live in crowded conditions, or are in close contact with infected persons are at a higher risk of the infection.

Symptoms

Acute symptoms of H. pylori include abdominal burning, bloating, abdominal swelling, burping, nausea, gas and bad breath. The infections may be asymptomatic in others. Ulcers associated with Helicobacter infection may be characterized by dull, gnawing ache that may last for several weeks. The pain usually occurs on an empty stomach, two to three hours after the meals. It can lead to weight loss, decreased appetite, bloating, burping, nausea and vomiting.

Majority of the patients with H. pylori gastritis do not show any symptoms. Others may experience abdominal pain after meals along with dark stools, indigestion, nausea and vomiting. H. pylori infection may develop into gastric cancer, especially in individuals over the age of 45. Patients may lose almost 10 percent of their body weight. They may also experience anemia, jaundice, rectal bleeding and difficulty in swallowing.

Patients with severe abdominal pain, difficulty swallowing and bloody stools should seek immediate medical attention.

Diagnosis

Your doctor may perform a blood test and breath test to confirm the diagnosis of H. pylori infection. Stool antigen test and endoscopy may also be performed along with a thorough physical examination before starting treatment.

Treatment

Your doctor may prescribe two or more antibiotics to treat the H. pylori infection. This will prevent the bacteria from developing resistance against one particular antibiotic. You may also have to take an antacid to suppress the production of acid in your stomach. This may help treat the discomfort associated with stomach ulcers, and help heal your gastric lining. Your doctor may recommend diagnostic tests after the first round of treatment to look for the presence of the bacteria. You may have to undergo another round of treatment if your first round of therapy was unsuccessful.

You may prevent H pylori infection by consuming clean food and water. Prompt treatment may also help prevent the complications associated with the infection.

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