23 Aug What is Helicobacter Pylori Infection?
Helicobacter Pylori Infection or H. pylori is a bacteria that infects the stomach and small intestine and can cause peptic ulcers – sores on the lining of the stomach or small intestine. It is also a risk factor for stomach cancer.
H. pylori can be spread through contaminated food or water, or by being in close contact with someone who is infected.
It can survive in the acidic environment of the stomach and cause inflammation and irritation of the stomach lining, leading to symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting, and peptic ulcers.
Symptoms of H.pylori
H.pylori infection can cause a range of different gastrointestinal symptoms, including:
- Abdominal pain and discomfort
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Burping or acid reflux.
It can also lead to peptic ulcers in some cases. These are sores that develop on the lining of the stomach or small intestine. They can cause severe abdominal pain and discomfort, as well as nausea and vomiting.
How is H.pylori diagnosed?
Generally, H. pylori infection is detected through a combination of blood, stool, and breath tests.
It is important to note that these tests may not always be accurate, and additional testing may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis. It is also important to see a healthcare provider for treatment if you have any symptoms of H. pylori infection.
1) H.pylori Serology (Blood) Tests
An H. pylori infection can be detected through a blood test that checks for the presence of antibodies produced by the immune system in response to the infection.
A positive result means the individual has been infected in the past but does not necessarily mean they currently have an active infection.
2) Stool Antigen Tests
A stool antigen test can detect the presence of H. pylori antigens, which are proteins produced by the bacteria itself.
This type of test is more sensitive than a blood test and is recommended for diagnosis in children or individuals who have had an H. pylori infection in the past and may be experiencing recurrent symptoms.
3) Urea Breath Tests
Urea breath tests can detect the presence of H. pylori in the stomach or small intestine. The patient ingests a urea-based solution and then exhales into a collection device.
If the bacteria is present, it will break down the urea and release carbon dioxide, which can be detected by the machine.
How Do You Treat H.pylori Infection?
To treat H. pylori infection, a combination of antibiotics and acid-suppressing medications is usually required.
A healthcare provider will prescribe the appropriate medications and duration of treatment based on each case. To ensure complete eradication of the infection, it is crucial to follow the prescribed treatment in its entirety.
To treat H. pylori infection, typically two or three antibiotics are used in combination with a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), which is a medication that suppresses acid.
The antibiotics are used to kill the H. pylori bacteria, while the PPI helps to reduce the amount of acid produced in the stomach. This can help to alleviate symptoms and promote the healing of any existing peptic ulcers.
In some cases, a bismuth-containing medication may also be used as part of the treatment regimen. Bismuth is a metallic element that can help to kill H. pylori bacteria and protect the stomach lining.
It is important to take all medications as prescribed and to follow the treatment plan as directed by a healthcare provider.
It is also important to avoid alcohol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) while undergoing treatment, as these substances can irritate the stomach lining and interfere with the effectiveness of the medications.
After completing treatment, a follow-up test is typically recommended to confirm that the infection has been successfully eradicated. This may involve a blood test, stool test, or breath test. If the infection persists, additional treatment may be necessary.
It is important to note that H. pylori infection can often be successfully treated and cured. However, it is important to seek medical care if symptoms persist or worsen, as untreated H. pylori infection can lead to complications such as peptic ulcers and stomach cancer.
In addition to taking prescribed medications, there are several steps that individuals can take to help prevent H. pylori infection:
1) Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water
Good hand hygiene is essential for preventing the spread of infection.
It is important to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after using the restroom, before eating, and after coming into contact with someone who is infected.
2) Avoid contaminated food or water
Contaminated food and water can contain H. pylori bacteria, so it is important to practice good food safety habits by eating only freshly prepared foods that have been properly cooked and stored.
It is also important to be sure the water used for drinking and cooking has been filtered or boiled before use.
3) Avoid sharing utensils or cups
H.pylori can be spread through contact with saliva, so it is important to avoid sharing cups or eating utensils with someone who may have the infection.
It is also important to keep the mouth covered when sneezing or coughing in order to prevent droplets from spreading H. pylori bacteria into the air.
4) Eat a healthy diet
Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help to strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of infections.
A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products is recommended for optimal health. Avoiding processed foods and sugary snacks may also help reduce the risk of H. pylori infection.
5) Avoid tobacco and alcohol
Smoking and drinking alcohol can weaken the immune system, making it more difficult for the body to fight off infections.
Therefore, it is best to avoid tobacco and alcohol to reduce the risk of H. pylori infection and other illnesses. If you do drink alcohol, be sure to practice moderation and avoid heavy drinking.
6) Practice safe food handling
It is important to practice safe food handling habits to reduce the risk of H. pylori infection. This includes washing hands before handling food, cooking meat thoroughly, and avoiding undercooked or raw food.
It is also important to keep the kitchen clean by washing surfaces and utensils and storing food properly. Following these steps can help reduce the risk of infection, as well as other foodborne illnesses.
Why Helicobacter pylori Infection Needs to be Eradicated?
Eradicating H. pylori infection can help to reduce the risk of serious complications and improve an individual’s overall health. The complications include:
1) Peptic ulcers
H. pylori infection is a common cause of peptic ulcers, which are sores that develop on the lining of the stomach or small intestine. Peptic ulcers can cause abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting, and they can take several weeks or months to heal.
2) Stomach cancer
H. pylori infection is a known risk factor for stomach cancer, which is a type of cancer that affects the lining of the stomach. Stomach cancer is a serious and often deadly disease, and it is more likely to occur in individuals with a long-standing H. pylori infection.
3) Other Digestive Problems
H. pylori can also lead to other digestive issues such as dyspepsia (indigestion) and gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining). These conditions can cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, bloating, and decreased appetite.
What is the recurrence of H.pylori infection?
The recurrence rate of H. pylori infection after treatment is generally low, with most individuals achieving a cure after completing a course of treatment.
However, it is important to note that the recurrence rate may vary depending on the specific treatment regimen used, as well as the individual’s underlying health and risk factors for infection.
A meta-analysis by Yan, et al, on the recurrence of H. pylori infection covering 77 researchers, and 1226 patients (in total 43,525 patient-years) showed a worldwide annual average recurrence rate of H. pylori infection of 2.82 ± 1.16%.
However, this rate may be higher in individuals with certain risk factors, such as a history of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) use or a weakened immune system.
H. pylori infection is a common cause of peptic ulcers and stomach cancer, so it is important to seek medical care if symptoms persist or worsen. Treatment typically involves the use of antibiotics and may include other medications as directed by a healthcare provider.
Prevention strategies as mentioned above need to be taken. By following these steps and seeking medical care if necessary, individuals can help reduce their risk of H. pylori infection and its associated complications.
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