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Helicobacter Pylori Infection
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Helicobacter Pylori Infection

(H. Pylori Infection)

Pronounced: hel-lick-o-back-ter pie-lor-ee in-fek-shun

Definition

Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a type of bacteria that can infect the stomach and intestines. It can lead to:

Although the bacteria are responsible for most ulcers that occur, many people who are infected do not get symptoms or ulcers. But, this condition can be serious. It may increase the risk of gastric cancer.

Gastric Ulcer

© 2011 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

This condition occurs when an infected person passes the bacteria to someone else. The bacteria are spread through:

  • Fecal-oral contact
  • Oral-oral contact

For instance, a person can become infected after consuming food or water that has been contaminated.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for infection include:

  • Being a child
  • Being in:
    • Close contact with an infected person
    • A lower socio-economic group
    • A crowded and unsanitary living environment

Symptoms

In most cases, there may not be any symptoms. However, if someone develops an ulcer or gastritis, they may have:

  • Abdominal pain that may:
    • Awaken you from sleep
    • Change when you eat
    • Last for a few minutes or several hours
    • Feel like unusually strong hunger pangs
    • Be sharp or severe
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bloating
  • Black, tarry, or bloody stools
  • Burping
  • Vomiting blood
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to this infection. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will:

  • Ask about your symptoms and medical history
  • Do a physical exam

Tests may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Stool test
  • Endoscopy—a thin, lighted tube inserted down your throat to look inside your stomach and to take tissue samples for testing
  • Urea breath test—a test that can help detect if there is a current infection

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. You may be treated with different medicines to remove H. pylori from your stomach and intestines. Examples of medicines you may be prescribed include:

  • Antibiotics (You may need to take more than one type of antibiotic.)
  • Other medicines (eg, acid-lowering drugs)
  • A combination of these drugs

You may need to take medicines for 1-2 weeks.

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of getting infected:

  • Avoid close contact with people who may be infected.
  • Wash your hands often when coming in contact with infected people.
  • Wash your hands after using the bathroom and before eating or preparing food.
  • Drink water from a safe source.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking increases the chance of getting an ulcer.

RESOURCES:

The American College of Gastroenterology
http://www.acg.gi.org/

American Gastroenterological Association
http://www.gastro.org/

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/index-eng.php

Ontario Association of Gastroenterology
http://www.gastro.on.ca/

References:

DynaMed Editors. Helicobacter pylori infection. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/. Updated April 6, 2011. Accessed April 12, 2011.

Carson-Dewitt R. Gastritis. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/. Updated September 20, 2010. Accessed April 12, 2011.

Helicobacter pylori. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/aip/research/hp.html. Accessed April 12, 2011.

Helicobacter pylori: fact sheet for healthcare providers. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ulcer/files/hpfacts.PDF. Updated July 1998. Accessed April 12, 2011.

Weyermann M, Rothenbacher D, Brenner H. Acquisition of Helicobacter pylori infection in early childhood: independent contributions of infected mothers, fathers, and siblings. Am J Gastroenterol. 2009;104(1):182-189.

What should I know about Helicobacter pylori infections? American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2002/0401/p1339.html. Published April 1, 2002. Accessed April 12, 2011.

Wood D. Peptic ulcer. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/. Updated September 20, 2010. Accessed April 12, 2011.



Last reviewed April 2011 by Daus Mahnke, MD


Last updated Updated: 4/26/2011

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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