H. pylori is a type of bacteria and H. pylori infection is common. The bacterium can cause peptic ulcers by damaging the stomach lining (mucosa) that produces the mucous coating protecting the stomach and duodenum. Damage to the mucous coating allows powerful stomach acid to get through to the sensitive lining beneath. Together, the stomach acid and H. pylori irritate the lining of the stomach or duodenum and cause an ulcer.
Yet, most people infected with H. pylori never develop ulcers. Why the bacterium causes ulcers in some people and not in others is not known. Most likely, development of ulcers depends on characteristics of the infected person and the type, or strain, of H. pylori present.
Symptoms of a H. pylori infection include:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
Risk factors for developing H. Pylori include:
- Ethnicity: born in South or Central America, Africa, or Asia
When to See a Doctor
Occasional abdominal distress such as cramping, bloating or belching may result from a number of causes and often resolves on its own. If your symptoms have not resolved within a few days, are persistent or if they recur, it’s time for a thorough evaluation and consultation with a specialist. Only a doctor can evaluate and confirm a diagnosis of H. pylori.
Treatment options for individuals with helicobacter pylori vary and may include drug therapy through a combination of medications.
- Acid blocking medications and antibiotics
The foremost diagnostic "test" for any condition is a thorough exam and consultation with a physician, including a review of your individual and family history. In addition, your physician may recommend any of the following tests or procedures, which may provide further diagnostic value:
- Stool tests
No one knows for sure how H. pylori spreads, so prevention is difficult. To help prevent infection:
- Wash hands with soap and water after using the bathroom and before eating
- Eat food that has been washed well and cooked properly
- Drink water from a clean, safe source
Learn more about Helicobacter Pylori with resources from UpToDate