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Stomach Problems? It Could Be Helicobacter pylori

If your stomach is feeling upset, H. pylori may be the cause. Here's what you need to know about this common bacteria.

What is H. pylori?

Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a common type of bacteria that lives in the digestive tract after entering the body. Most people who carry H. pylori bacteria don’t show any symptoms. For some people, however, the bacteria can result in ulcers of the stomach or small intestine. In addition, an H. pylori infection can sometimes lead to stomach cancer.

  1. pylori can be transmitted through food, water, or utensils, as well as through the saliva or other bodily fluids of an infected person. It’s more common in areas that lack clean water or good sewage systems.

What are the symptoms of H. pylori?  

Doctors understand that bacteria are the most common cause of stomach ulcers. After entering the body, the bacteria attack the lining of the stomach. After several years, this can cause enough damage that stomach acid gets through the lining, resulting in ulcers that can bleed, cause infections, or prevent the movement of food through your digestive tract.

Signs of an ulcer include:

  • Dull or burning pain in the stomach

  • Pain that comes and goes, lasting anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours

  • Pain that is worse on an empty stomach

  • Pain that is eased by eating, drinking milk, or taking an antacid

  • Bloating and/or burping

  • Loss of appetite

  • Nausea and/or vomiting

  • Unintended weight loss

Ulcers can be dangerous when they bleed into your stomach or intestines. If you have any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention immediately:

  • Bloody, dark red, or black stool

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Fainting or dizziness

  • Extreme fatigue without explanation

  • Pale skin

  • Vomit that contains blood or looks like coffee grounds

  • Sharp, severe pain in the stomach

Occasionally, H. pylori infections result in stomach cancer. Symptoms include:

  • Heartburn

  • Pain or swelling of the belly

  • Nausea and/or vomiting

  • Lack of appetite

  • Feeling full after eating only a small portion

  • Unintended weight loss

How is H. pylori diagnosed?

If you have symptoms that indicate you might have an ulcer, your physician may test for H. pylori, in addition to administering other tests to assess your condition. These may include tests for stomach ulcers or stomach cancer.

What is the treatment for H. pylori?

If you have a stomach ulcer caused by H. pylori, treatment can include a combination of many medications that work to kill the bacteria and help heal your sores and keep them from returning. It is important to take all medications as instructed by your health care provider to ensure they work as intended. If you have any side effects that are hard to tolerate, talk to your medical provider about your options.

Treatment typically only takes a few weeks. You may be re-tested 1-2 weeks after your treatment is finished, to check that the infection has been fully eliminated.

How can H. pylori infections be prevented?

There are some important things you can do to help prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria like H. pylori. Make sure to wash your hands with soap and water after using the washroom and before preparing or eating food.  Ensure that all food and water you consume is clean and that all food is cooked to a safe temperature. Teach your children and family members to follow these practices as well.

  1. pylori and other bacterial infections can be made worse by antibiotic resistance, where the overuse of antibacterial medications may cause bacteria to become resistant to treatment. Be sure to only take antibiotics only when your medical provider prescribes them for a bacterial infection.

Where can I get tested for H. pylori and other health concerns?

If you suspect you may have a health condition caused by H. pylori bacteria or any other concern, WellNow is available to help. Walk-in or Reserve Your Time Online at a  CLINIC NEAR YOU  for an examination and consultation with an experienced health care provider, any day of the week.