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Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection facts

  • Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a bacterium that causes chronic inflammation (infection) in the stomach and duodenum, and is a common contagious cause of ulcers worldwide. These bacteria are sometimes termed "ulcer bacteria."
  • H. pylori causes chronic inflammation (gastritis) by invading the lining of the stomach and producing a cytotoxin termed vacuolating cytotoxin A (Vac-A), and thus can lead to ulcer formation.
  • Although many infected individuals have no symptoms, other infected individuals may have occasional episodes of
    • belching,
    • bloating,
    • nausea and vomiting and
    • abdominal discomfort.
  • More serious infections cause symptoms of
    • abdominal pain,
    • nausea and vomiting that may include vomiting blood,
    • passing dark or tarry like stools,
    • fatigue,
    • low red blood cell count (anemia),
    • decreased appetite,
    • diarrhea,
    • peptic ulcers,
    • heartburn, and
    • bad breath.
  • H. pylori is contagious; however, some individuals may be simply have the bacteria in their gut, and the bacteria causes no symptoms of disease.
  • The diagnosis of H. pylori infection includes tests for antibodies in blood, a urea breath test, tests for antigens in stool, and endoscopic biopsies.
  • Chronic infections with H. pylori weakens the natural defenses of the stomach so most individuals with symptoms need to be treated to prevent ulceration formation.
  • H. pylori can be difficult to eradicate from the stomach with antibiotics because of antibiotic resistance; consequently, two or more antibiotics are usually given together (treatment regimen) with a protein pump inhibitor (PPI) medication (for example, omeprazole [Prilosec, Zegerid] or esomeprazole [Nexium]) termed H. pylori treatment and/or triple therapy.
  • In general, patients should be treated if they are infected with H. pylori and have ulcers. Moreover, patients who develop MALT lymphoma (a type of cancer) of the stomach have the lymphoma progress if H. pylori is not treated and eradicated.
  • Because about 50% of the world's population is infected with H. pylori, treatment and prevention of side effects and complications is difficult; however, recommendations to help prevent ulcers include:
    • Reduce or stop alcohol intake and quit smoking.
    • Use acetaminophen (Tylenol and others) instead of NSAIDs, for example, aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).
    • Avoid caffeine
    • Check for symptoms of H. pylori infection after radiation therapy
    • Avoid or reduce stress
  • Good hand washing techniques with uncontaminated water will reduce the chances of infection.
  • Currently, no vaccine is available against H. pylori to prevent either colonization or infection.
  • The prognosis for H. pylori infections is usually good to excellent, but up to 20% of affected individuals may have reoccurring infection. Untreated and more severe infections have a worse prognosis because of the potential for bleeding, anemia, and low blood pressure (hypotension).
Return to H. pylori (Helicobacter Pylori ) Infection

See what others are saying

Comment from: Melodie, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: November 08

I have been living with H. pylori for 47 years. I can't take a lot of the drugs used to kill H. pylori. I live in pain every day, the doctors don't really seem to care if I can't take the drugs. My life has been going downhill as the years go by. I am in great fear of having cancer, I hope others find help and don't have to live as I do in pain.

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Comment from: Jayne, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: May 26

I had to get an ambulance in September 2015 with really bad abdominal pain. I was taken to the hospital and the paramedics put a needle in the back of my hand and gave me morphine. I was kept in the waiting room for about four hours and eventually a nurse came out and asked if the pain had gone. Because the pain had gone they sent me home with the needle still in the back of my hand and no tests had been done. I kept getting the severe abdominal pain that went down my left side so my general physician referred me for the camera to be done on the 21st June 2016. I went for the camera and they have found I have H. pylori. They did a biopsy and I have to go for the results on June 2nd. If they had done the tests in September instead of just sending me home this could have been detected sooner and treated.

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Comment from: Linda, 45-54 Female (Caregiver) Published: May 19

I work in the health care system and have had to give up a lot of hours because of this horrible bacteria H. pylori. I have extreme pain around the clock and hasn't eased up, last night I felt as if my stomach was going to explode. I had muscle spasms and contractions, I could actually feel my stomach contracting with my hand, and loud gurgling sounds that I swear it scared the day lights out of me. Then I realized with horror that it was me. All I've done is lie in bed with a heating pad, no quality of life whatsoever. I have had crying spells, feeling depressed and angry. Finally I was diagnosed with H. pylori which I've never heard of. Tomorrow I start treatment, I will also be having an ultra sound on my stomach and liver plus an endoscopy. I want my life back again, this is not living.

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